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Those interested in getting more background related to the Obama administration / NSA's phone and internet spying may want to read a couple of articles at the Scientific American website.

The header for the first article says:

Former NSA Whistleblower Sheds Light on the Science of Surveillance Thomas Drake talks about surveillance algorithms and the outlook for the latest alleged whistleblower Edward Snowden, drawing from his own NSA prosecution

It explains how much spying can be done collecting phone records, email headers and such - even if they don't look at content.

The header to the second article says:

How Are the NSA and Others Collecting and Using our Data? A metadata expert reveals the sobering implications of personal data collection by governments and companies

   -   -   -   -   -   -   -  

Think of it this way.  The government has collected data that tells them if you ever used means such as your phone or email to contact a phone or internet address linked to Wikileaks, Occupy Wall St., the Green Party, Amnesty, anti-war groups, pro-choice groups, marriage equality groups, unions, etc.  They have what they need to make a political profile of you.  Whether or not they are putting together such political profiles today, they've made it possible for a future Nixon to press a few buttons and create an enemies list of millions of citizens.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    "We all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free capitalism for the poor." - Martin Luther King Jr.

    by workingwords on Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 11:08:19 AM PDT

  •  Yes... but.... (0+ / 0-)

    What good is a list of a million names?

    This kind of intelligence is only useful if it is precise and accurate. Otherwise, it's just a digital dragnet which relies heavily on human surveillance. Why bother with the digital side at all then?

  •  Couple of points, but I know they'll be lost (4+ / 0-)

    Metadata doesn't tell the whole story, it only points in a direction. We've all seen the problems with big-data. Have you ever seen a very out-of-place ad on a web page you visited? Some computer miscalculated from the metadata. I visit Eschaton a lot. I'm always amazed at the right-wing and oil company ads that pop up. Yes I care about what the right-wing is doing and how bad energy is wasted in the US. But that doesn't mean I'll buy what their selling.

    Same with metadata, you point in your commentary about the government being able to figure out if you're political leanings from your e-mail and phone calling patterns. Say you are a huge denier of Global Warming, and you constantly barrage Greenpeace with your screeds, call them a couple of times a week to yell at them. All the metadata says is that you interact with them. To determine your intent, someone has to access the content, Greenpeace will know you aren't a supporter, but not the idle observer.

    This isn't to say that metadata is not potentially informative, just that the power is not absolute. For an intelligence analyst, its gold to figure out who is communicating with whom, particularly as you get to 3rd and 4th degree contacts. But to actually understand what is going on you'll need content.

    That was the reasoning (or part of it) behind the "Pen Register" cases. The fact that phone # A called phone # B and that A and B can be associated with particular people or organizations is not something that could be used to charge or convict anyone of a crime. It may, however, be enough to establish probable cause and allow the police to get a warrant for a "tap" to collect the content of a call.

    In the past that would have meant all future calls, today, when applied to e-mail, there is a much broader set of content that might be retrieved.

    What the government has been able to do is something that all your phone and internet provider can do, just they're looking for terrorists and spies, your phone and internet providers want your money.

    •  To me, all that is not reassuring but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      workingwords, T100R, Joieau

      rather scary.

      Insofar as mis-analysis of the meta data has the capability to send more innocent people to Gitmo (in a manner analogous to mis-analysis of the meta data sent a right wing ad to your computer . . . . )

      •  That isn't how it works though (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        No one goes to Gitmo for scoring high in the model. They receive higher scrutiny. The mining is meant to focus attention on a high risk cohort. It isn't Gattaca.

      •  People don't get sent to Gitmo anymore, AND (0+ / 0-)

        You missed the point.

        The government isn't putting people in jail because of who they communicated with (that is based on metadata). They may try and use your content (what you actually communicated to another human being), but to get that they'll need probable cause to get a warrant.

      •  It is certainly scary for (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        the 'average' (whatever that means) person, I'd think much more for phone records and emails than for internet usage. Since the internet is just faster and handier than every other communications /entertainment media humans ever invented. The vast majority of usage that's not business is porn, and I don't imagine the gub'mint cares much about who's watching porn.

        Then there's someone like you - and all of us here on DKos. We spend time here keeping up with politics and political news and not from a 'safe' Teabaggery point of view. Are any of us really worried that gub'mint spies might find out we're Democrats (or Progressives, or liberals, or...)? Really? Just another data point to put next to our names in the databank, our politics is not exactly secret.

        Then there's someone like me - I've been getting emails daily at least (a lot more in the beginning) from Japan from the very day Fukushima went down. I still get the SafeCast list every day. Plus numerous to and from people all over the country and all over the world dealing with various technical aspects of the situation as it occurred and has been ongoing. All sorts of people, in all sorts of roles. I'd imagine whoever is assigned to keeping track of me is probably less bored than most of his/her cubicle buddies.

        Yet it's all still straightforward, the computer-based extension of who I am and have always been. They already know me, I'm not hiding. They could have done away with me decades ago, when they found that shooting at us wouldn't shut me up. Now I'm effectively neutralized by events far worse than anything I've seen and made known. Nobody cares, so I'm not a problem.

        This ol' world would be hard pressed to come up with anything worse than Fukushima, at least in my lifetime. So I'm not feeling all that important just because my watcher has more to watch than yours (figurative). Death by boredom is a helluva way to go. What irks me most is that our grossly overpaid government couldn't come up with a more useful jobs program than this... ยง;o)

        •  Hmm, I doubt if you have anything to worry (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          about wrt your Fukushima advocacy - but OTOH it is probably wise to be overly rather than underly paranoid.

          In a similar vein, I was somewhat amused by one of my colleagues who has a friend that was planning to to either Ecuador or Australia on his honeymoon - but this person is afraid to contact his friend to find out because he does not want the NSA to associate him or his communications with the word Ecuador in manner whatsoever.

          Now that's what I call paranoid.  But still, I kinda see his point.

          •  Heh. Yeah, say "Ecuador" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy

            over the phone and a red light probably goes off in the cubicle. Guess I should be glad my sis and her hub finally retired from the foreign service...

            Those of us for whom being watched has been a regular factor in life ever since we got old enough to leave home do tend to shrug for stuff like this - it's something you get used to. But it's not something most people have ever really worried about, so having it out in the open now is a great opportunity to begin the real discussion of just why we've been targeted en masse, and what we should (or should not) do about it. I'm a big fan of government in the sunshine - if everything is secret, then nothing is legitimately secret. Seems to me some rational standards need to be applied, and we the people need to start exercizing whatever power we have left AS this nation to bring our government back under control.

            To do that, we have to NOT be more afraid of each other than we are of the ebil terrier-ists. Finding our backbones again would be good for us.

    •  Do you trust them to look for terrorists and spies (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Traffic analysis is exactly the tool someone would use to, hypothetically, preemptively arrest people planning to demonstrate at a Republican convention.

      Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

      by Dogs are fuzzy on Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 01:15:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Imprecise metadata may be used (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You're right that metadata won't give the accuracy / precision content would.  But... If the government wanted to go after Greenpeace while circumventing legal channels for accessing content, they could go after those repeatedly in the metadata.  Over 90% would be people sympathetic to Greenpeace, a few anti-Greenpeace cranks would get hit as well.  The government might be willing to accept that.

      The metadata may not be sufficient to prosecute & convict, but blacklisting can be done without that.  The US is using drone strikes - even against US citizens [overseas] - without normal due process.  In the 1960's, we know the COINTELPRO operations against dissidents in the US wasn't limited to due process.

      There are other approaches.  The US government didn't prosecute Martin Luther King Jr. to try to stop certain activities - they tried to blackmail him with threats of disclosing his marital infidelities.  Metadata could provide potential ammunition - a married person visiting dating sites, a person going to porn sites, someone going to sites that have unauthorized downloads of copyrighted materials, etc.

      "We all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free capitalism for the poor." - Martin Luther King Jr.

      by workingwords on Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 02:36:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And every cop could shoot everyone they see (0+ / 0-)

        but that's not something I'm loosing sleep over.

        What exactly do you think this "blacklist" is going to be and how is it going to affect you? Seriously, you're off to the CT territory.

        Yes up through the 70's the intelligence apparatus of the US was pretty loosely controlled and spied on, and harassed, may people. The Church and Pike Commissions cause a major re-write of the Intelligence laws in the US. We don't live in those times.

        In the past slavery was legal in the US, are we to worry about the reinstatement of that as well?

        My major point, is that for the government to legally take any action against a US Person for any of your communications the need to have access to it. Either because they got a warrant, or because your correspondent shared it. Metadata, while informative, does not prove anything.

        There is nothing in the reporting of the Guardian or any of the leaked documents to indicate any wholesale collection of the communications content of email or other electronic communications.

        •  Reasonable suspicion (0+ / 0-)

          It doesn't seem "conspiracy theory" is applicable when the question is whether there's a substantial possibility the government may do in the future what we both agree is historical fact in the past - including under Attorney General Robert Kennedy.  Yes, things were supposed to change after Church - and may have for a time.  But clearly, things are swinging the other way again - the Patriot Act, indefinite detention without charges at special facilities like Gitmo, drone assassination of US citizens overseas, new types of NSA spying, a war in Iraq begun with baseless claims of WMDs, police spying on mosques in general (not just part of specific cases), etc.  This isn't the Church days anymore.

          "We all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free capitalism for the poor." - Martin Luther King Jr.

          by workingwords on Fri Jun 28, 2013 at 12:02:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  As long as 'content collected' and 'accessed' (0+ / 0-)

    is also acknowledged as happening.

    Guardian 6/21 had this information about content being collected along with many other sources have also verified that.

    Not pointing out or trying to cover up that content is collected is trying to minimize the problem, that metadata reveals so much is important, but only part of the problem.

    Some people seem to be doing this...imo, don't know why...but could make wild guesses....

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 04:01:39 PM PDT

  •  I think people do not want to admit how technology (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ..of today isn't made to be private. It can be made to be more privacy-friendly, but that will take away many of the features users like.

    The second thing I believe people do not want to admit is that if we fail to address the creation and storage of metadata and personal data outside of government, then we are fooling ourselves to believe government is going to be able to ignore it.

    And I can't help but wonder when Drake and others will start educating their fans about how to make snooping by government and others much harder. Given what Drake and others know, why the heck isn't he leading an encryption movement if they are really concerned about protecting privacy?

    The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

    by sebastianguy99 on Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 04:10:26 PM PDT

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