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So there's been a lot of hot and heavy action on the Snowden/NSA front of late.  Having formerly had a TS/SAR Clearance working for a defense contractor in a previous life, and currently being a DBA and Systems Administrator in my current life - I may have a bit of unique perspective on much of this.

Taking it from the top we have the confirmation of Snowden's basic claims from previous NSA Whistleblower Russell Tice wherein he alleges that NSA resources were used to wiretap Senator Obama in 2004.

In the summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois. You wouldn't happen to know where that guy lives right now would you? It's a big white house in Washington, D.C. That's who they went after, and that's the president of the United States now.
Now you have that contrasted with the recent article that essentially claims that Snowden and Greenwald are Liars.
Now, a new report on the NSA programs casts doubt on the entire premise of Snowden and Greenwald's claims.  Indeed, the report suggests that their claims are completely false -- that in fact, Snowden did not ever and would not ever have had either the authority for or access to the NSA database at all, much less to eavesdrop, as Snowden and Greenwald claimed.
I think to many extents both of these views are correct, and both of them are also probably wrong.  Let's put them both into context.

The primary difference of course between these two views is the passage of time, and most importantly the FISA Fix that was implemented in the Protect America Act of 2007  after the first revelations of NSA warrentless spying were addressed by Congress.

Previous to this act, President Bush exerted his Unitary Executive Privilege to conduct his National Security as he pleased without oversight by the Congress or the Courts. With this act the FISA Court was enabled to periodically authorize and reauthorize every 90 days the foreign surveillance which had previously occurred under the Bush Administration in a blanket and unchecked manner.

The kind of abuses Russell describes are exactly the kinds of abuses we would all like to avoid, where innocent Americas or even worse political rivals of the current Administration have the power of the NSA turned against them for political purposes.

The point of bringing the court into the mix was to prevent exactly this from occurring.  One of Snowden and Greenwald's main complaints about the court, is the fact that it rendered a secret opinion in 2008 that found the process used by the NSA to be Unconstitutional. Via Wired.

“On at least one occasion,” the intelligence shop has approved Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to say, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that “minimization procedures” used by the government while it was collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” Minimization refers to how long the government may retain the surveillance data it collects.  The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to guarantee our rights against unreasonable searches.

In the letter, acquired by Danger Room (.pdf), Wyden asserts a serious federal sidestep of a major section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

That section — known as Section 702 and passed in 2008 — sought to legalize the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance efforts. The 2008 law permitted intelligence officials to conduct surveillance on the communications of “non-U.S. persons,” when at least one party on a call, text or email is “reasonably believed” to be outside of the United States. Government officials conducting such surveillance no longer have to acquire a warrant from the so-called FISA Court specifying the name of an individual under surveillance. And only a “significant purpose” of the surveillance has to be the acquisition of “foreign intelligence,” a weaker standard than before 2008.

A similar FISC Court ruling was made in 2011.
A 2011 FISC court ruling had concluded that some of the NSA’s surveillance programs had violated sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, a law aimed at protecting American citizens from surveillance programs targeted at foreigners.

The nation’s most secretive court, as it has been called in the media, said that the 86-page classified opinion can be made public if a district court orders it.

Logic dictates that in order to appease the court, these minimization procedures needed to be updated and increased to meet judicial muster, otherwise the court should certainly have the power to enjoin all of this surveillance until it was satisfied.  We know from Snowden's releases that after the first such finding some of these procedures were required by the court in 2009. Hence we have the more recent report from the Washington Post which outlines what some of those minimization procedures are.
But to begin a particular search, analysts must submit a request to their superiors showing why there is a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the number belongs to a member of a recognized terrorist organization. A reasonable, articulable suspicion is lower than the standard of “probable cause” used in criminal investigations to obtain a warrant or make an arrest. But the suspicion has to be based on facts that a reasonable person would accept.


The analysts’ 215 requests go to one of the 22 people at the NSA who are permitted to approve them — the chief or the deputy chief of the Homeland Security Analysis Center or one of 20 authorized Homeland Security mission coordinators within the Signals Intelligence directorate’s analysis and production directorate.

Each NSA database search is audited afterward by compliance officials at the agency. How many phone numbers are searched is reported every 30 days to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Every 90 days, a small team from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence spends a day at NSA looking over 215 documents and questioning analysts. Cursory reports on 215 activity are sent to Congress every year. The last one was eight sentences.

Some have argued that this proves that Snowden and Greenwald have "Lied" and that with this level of protection in place his claims could not be true.
“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the President, if I had a personal e-mail.”

“All they have to do is enter an e-mail address or an IP address, and it does two things, searches the database and lets them listen to the calls or read the e-mails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories and Google search terms.”

“It’s done with no need to go to court, no need to get approval . . . But it allows them to listen to whatever e-mails they want, telephone calls, browsing history, Microsoft Word documents.”

This view unfortunately ignores several key factors.  Edward Snowden was not an analyst at the NSA.  He's a systems administrator and the the difference is as great as an ant and an elephant.

If I were an analyst I might go to my system and enter a database query by entering information into a form like this...

But if I were a system analyst I wouldn't need that form, I might have created that form in order to generate an SQL query like this one.

$query = "SELECT DISTINCT phone1.phoneID,, phone1.service, phone1.typeID, phone1.callID, phone1.duration, phone1.calls, as receivername FROM phonecalls as phone1 LEFT Join phonecalls as phone2 ON phone1.receiverID = phone2.phoneID WHERE phone1.sysID = '$sysID' ORDER BY phone2.datetime, LIMIT $Start,9999" ;
One of these things, is obviously not like the other.  The point being that a system administration from his desk can ALWAYS run direct SQL Queries to the database and the only security involved, is his Administrator ID.  There are no prior approvals required by management, and there is NO Audit trail (unless the DB has internal auditing, which it might, but even if it did the administrator would have control of that auditing).

Other whistleblowers besides Tice have discussed the power that an Administrator would have as a Super-User. Something I discussed previously in this diary.

Thomas Drake: It has nothing to do with being 29. It's just that we are in the Internet age and this is the digital age. So, so much of what we do both in private and in public goes across the Internet. Whether it's the public Internet or whether it's the dark side of the Internet today, it's all affected the same in terms of technology. ...

One of the critical roles in the systems is the system administrator. Someone has to maintain it. Someone has to keep it running. Someone has to maintain the contracts.

Whistle Blower William Binney: Part of his job as the system administrator, he was to maintain the system. Keep the databases running. Keep the communications working. Keep the programs that were interrogating them operating. So that meant he was like a super-user. He could go on the network or go into any file or any system and change it or add to it or whatever, just to make sure — because he would be responsible to get it back up and running if, in fact, it failed.

So that meant he had access to go in and put anything. That's why he said, I think, "I can even target the president or a judge." If he knew their phone numbers or attributes, he could insert them into the target list which would be distributed worldwide. And then it would be collected, yeah, that's right. As a super-user, he could do that.

So there you have confirmation that Snowden is probably not lying or exaggerating. Someone in his former position could do - still today - what Russel Tice says was occurring back in 2004 before the involvement of the FISA court.

Which leads us to the ultimate issue.  If the government is going to maintain a system like this, there will always be away around the security, particularly if those entrusted with All the Access happen to be the ones who choose to abuse it.

One solution to this problem, which comes from my previous secure experience, is to establish a two-man rule.  No-one works alone.  Someone would always have to be in the room or have direct access to the same terminal, with the same authorities and can double-check what the other person is doing and has done.  It's not perfect, but it is an strong deterrent to systems abuse.

And it's a darn-sight better option that the sort of knee-jerk hair-on-fire response we've seen from the NSA.

The National Security Agency, hit by disclosures of classified data by former contractor Edward Snowden, said Thursday it intends to eliminate about 90 percent of its system administrators to reduce the number of people with access to secret information.

   "What we're in the process of doing - not fast enough - is reducing our system administrators by about 90 percent," he said.

Yes ridiculously overworked system administrators are going to be really NOT HAPPY system administrators.  That's a plan fail right from the start, but at least in the short term - it does kinda plug their biggest security hole, which would be the people responsible for implementing the security.

When it comes to some of the loopholes that have been pointed out from the FISA opinions released by Snowden regarding data from and by U.S. Citizens which may be caught up in this surveillance net... I actually don't have a problem with it.

Secret minimization procedures dating from 2009, published in June by the Guardian, revealed that the NSA could make use of any "inadvertently acquired" information on US persons under a defined range of circumstances, including if they held usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity.
To me this seems a reasonable loophole for exigent circumstances, just as we might not want a police officer to enter our house with a warrant - we tend to waive that when someone in the house is screaming for help, or the house is on fire, or there's an audible gun-shot.  We want our Law Enforcement to go into that house under those circumstances rather than wait for a warrant, and that's how it should be.

Be all of this as it may, I am somewhat heartened by the President Obama has said his plans to further minimize the scope of NSA surveillance while improving it's transparency.  He has pledged to the following.

2. Work with Congress to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to introduce an “independent voice” that would “make sure the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.

3. Increase transparency. The Department of Justice will be making public the legal rationale for the collection of data. A website will also be created as “a hub” for further transparency.

4. A “high-level group of outside experts” will be formed for “new thinking, for a new era.” The independent group will be asked to review surveillance technologies, to ensure there is no abuse and find how the programs can maintain the trust of the public.

All of these are good moves.
Some may still argue that they aren't good enough, that simply the fact that the NSA has built this haystack of data is itself a violation of the 4th Amendment.  There are court cases making this argument right now, but another question I would ask them is : what would you have them do instead?

Let's say that all of this data, instead of being compiled and housed by NSA, were instead allowed to remain at the corporations which are their source, and only when a FISA warrant is issued would the NSA be able to go to each and every single one of these email & phone providers ONE BY ONE to do the kind of database query I gave a sample for above.   In all likelihood, those queries would have to be done custom to each database because the field names, formats and database schema is not likely to be common or compatible.

Quite frankly, it would be a Nightmare.

Ultimately we as a Nation have to make a decision whether avoiding that nightmare, and the possibility that crucial data may be lost in the cracks of those imperfect data-joins is worth the risk of having a big giant shoe-string ball of data sitting in the desert where a wayward systems admin might decide to go look up who Christopher Walken has been talking to on his Blackberry.

I mean the worst that could happen is if a future Presidential candidate had his information scooped up by the NSA for some god-forsaken reason and then had what ever they found exploited to destroy his political career.  Y'know - kinda the way the career of our current President clearly went south as soon as that kind of surveillance happened to him, way way back in 2004!

But then again simply the fact that now that the FISA Court is involved and overseeing the process and has twice put forward these minimization procedures shows that the system does work the way it should and reasonable protections are either in place, or will be added soon.  This situation may not be perfect, but things are far better now than they were, and may soon be getting better still prior to a new President coming into office.

All in all, I'm not nearly as panicked and fearful about the entire thing now - as I was when I first heard about this program when Bush started it years ago.

Speaking of being worried about government abuse, malfeasance and neglect have you heard about the time we dropped nuclear bomb on Iceland? Now that's something to worry about.



11:21 AM PT: As usual I wrote this at about 5am and planned to get up early for a final proofread  Unfortunately I overslept the scheduled publishing time I'd posted, but now I've finally gone back over it.  Sorry for that.

1:27 PM PT: Let me add that I can think of a few other worse case scenarios for abuse, such as the DEA using NSA derived domestic data then covering it up, or say Homeland Security potentially using innocuous personal information of people involved in Occupy to target them for further surveillance, harassment and prosecution. I would find all of that somewhat more troubling than the way the IRS handled Tea Party 501(c)(3) applications.  But perhaps that's just me.  However what I would then point out is that what you're now dealing with isn't an NSA problem you're dealing with a problem of law enforcement abusing their own mandate and authority, and that problem is large and ongoing both locally and federally.

There are many ways this could go wrong or horribly sideways, which is why we need more safeguards and protections in place [and not just at NSA].  As I said in the diary dismantling this entire system may ultimately be required, even I'm still on the fence about going that far yet, I have to consider the ultimately possibility.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (141+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranger995, Hey338Too, 2thanks, vcmvo2, tytalus, Had Enough Right Wing BS, webranding, I love OCD, GoGoGoEverton, Lawrence, TarheelDem, CwV, Proud Mom and Grandma, onceasgt, Youffraita, musicsleuth, doc2, Hammerhand, HudsonValleyMark, emal, AnnetteK, poco, arizonablue, FG, Bonsai66, kerflooey, Kathy S, sunbro, Darwinian Detrius, raina, DoctorWho, CS in AZ, Fabienne, Yasuragi, TomP, theKgirls, HoosierDeb, Empty Vessel, kj in missouri, Sybil Liberty, Medium Head Boy, Quantumlogic, Lorinda Pike, Texknight, Gary Norton, CharlesII, Eddie L, Matt Z, ballerina X, Boston to Salem, CroneWit, Wee Mama, Ian Reifowitz, grover, se portland, shortgirl, greycat, Simplify, Eric Nelson, PeterHug, mmacdDE, hardart, peagreen, k9disc, middleagedhousewife, mnguitar, NoFortunateSon, Lying eyes, NoMoJoe, Chitown Charlie, gramofsam1, Argyrios, implicate order, JML9999, joe from Lowell, Pandora, congenitalefty, fou, Catte Nappe, VickiL, Onomastic, a2nite, tegrat, Curt Matlock, Kentucky Kid, ItsSimpleSimon, native, pamelabrown, serendipityisabitch, AaronInSanDiego, ItsaMathJoke, maryabein, JVolvo, Shotput8, anodnhajo, Shockwave, psnyder, Smoh, zenox, Larsstephens, SixSixSix, splashy, greengemini, UtahLibrul, keirdubois, dizzydean, wasatch, chantedor, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, etherealfire, MJ via Chicago, duhban, side pocket, HamdenRice, jhancock, smartdemmg, sviscusi, jeff in nyc, praying manatheist, basquebob, xynz, GrumpyOldGeek, highacidity, 3goldens, TheLizardKing, zapus, randallt, Loge, JWC, Lefty Ladig, stevemb, felix19, jnhobbs, barleystraw, Chi, Progressive Witness, freakofsociety, wonmug, radical simplicity, Tony Situ, KenBee
  •  If you are OK with where we are (51+ / 0-)

    now, take a look at the trajectory of the issue. Ask the question: is this really about national security or about pushing the surveillance state deeper into our lives. Are we safer for this? Is the money well spent? Do pentagon contractors have a good record for honesty?

    I don't think so.

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:08:05 AM PDT

  •  Vyan, I am liking your diaries more and more (46+ / 0-)

    all the time. Nicely done.

    I disagree with you somewhat on being OK with this all, but I appreciate your intelligent analysis.

    I would like to see the FISA court members appointed by the president and vetted by congress. That would make me feel a little better about it.

    "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

    by ranger995 on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:09:09 AM PDT

  •  A Story. Pulling Y2K Into This (11+ / 0-)

    For about 15 years I worked as a business/marketing consultant in the DC metro area for the government (insert DoD, but also state and local) divisions of tech companies.*

    My clients were the likes of AT&T, CSC, Lucent, Oracle, Unisys, DynCorp, Litton/PRC, and EDS to name a few.  

    We pushed the Y2K thing 24/7. The above firms made billions and billions. What happened .... nothing.

    Of course this is about money.

    But it also about power and control. Anytime you give somebody an unlimited checkbook and power, they want more and more.

    I could convey a ton of inside info, but alas I think what we have learned is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Mark my words, all those floors on Lucent I couldn't get on cause I didn't have a security clearance, where they were making data switches that control the Internet, don't think they were not doing some fucked up shit, like giving the government a "backdoor."

    *I did NOT have a secret clearance.

    •  That's only 13 yrs (7+ / 0-)

      For anybody who thinks this is a new thing, I have one word.


      He was doing this crap, with the available technology, 40 yrs ago. And the FBI was for years before that.

      The technology has changed, but that's it.

      At least now most people realize its possible, and that the things that make our lives easier also make it easier for anyone to track us. We certainly didnt realize that 40 yrs ago.

    •  What are you insinuating about Y2K? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That the problem was not real? That the incredible amount of work that was done to prevent it was all a ruse and actual involved some nefarious purpose because "nothing happened"? Could it be that "nothing happened" because an actual solution had been found to the actual problem and people working diligently to implement the solution actually succeeded?

      Keeping in mind that the internet was invented to provide a secure communications system in case of nuclear war, I'm not going to argue that the government has no interest in it, or that security agencies haven't sought ways to monitor communications online....but saying that Y2K was made up so that "backdoors" could be installed is CT nonsense.

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 02:49:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary... (20+ / 0-)

    ... a small nit on Snowden's jobs prior to his data release (from Wikipedia):

    His next employment was as a National Security Agency (NSA) security guard for the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland,[46] before, he said, joining the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to work on IT security
    Snowden said that in 2007 the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was responsible for maintaining computer network security
    The Guardian reported that Snowden left the CIA in 2009 and began work for a private contractor inside an NSA facility on a US military base in Japan[18] later identified as Dell.[52] Snowden remained on the Dell payroll until early 2013.[52]
    [Note - next he was hired by Booz Hamilton]
    While intelligence officials have described his position there as a "system administrator", Snowden has said he was an "infrastructure analyst", which meant that his job was to look for new ways to break into Internet and telephone traffic around the world.[62] He said he had taken a pay cut to work at Booz Allen,[63] and that he sought employment in order to gather data on NSA surveillance around the world so he could leak it.[64] The firm said Snowden's employment was terminated on June 10, 2013 "for violations of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy."[61][65]
    As for your recommendation of the "two-person" rule.  It looks like the NSA has implemented such a requirement.

    Looking through the bent backed tulips, To see how the other half lives, Looking through a glass onion - John Lennon and Paul McCartney

    by Hey338Too on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:31:14 AM PDT

  •  Move along. Nothing to see here (7+ / 0-)

    rummys got a gun

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

    Old data anyway. Just says what we already know. Legal anyway.




  •  The fourth Amendment is not open for negotiation. (15+ / 0-)

    The constitution is the shield for all of our freedoms.  It is not just an " f-ing piece of paper as bush jr. referred to it.

    "My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution."
                                       Barbara Jordan

    Well I can't think of any to add to Ms Jordan's sentiments - can you?

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles
  •  Well argued, Vyan (26+ / 0-)

    There is the pesky Constitutional matter however, and ihe Fourth Amendment requires specific suspicion to initiate an investigation that seizies personal effects.

    What the NSA is doing with its Section 215 dragnet is creating a database of guilt-by-association of everyone.

    And the argument in support is essentially an expediency argument that fails because big data doesn't put you any closer to actual identification of an imminent threat because mere correlation produces high numbers of false positives and false negative that still must be validated against other specific data.  And keyword searches of content are notorious for false associations as anyone with a porn filter can attest.

    What Snowden said in his interview is that the only controls are policy, meaning there are not effective standard server-level logging controls of access.  I have seen sloppy server shops and understand how time pressures and the priorities of slamming ever increasing functionality into production can cause the sysadmin level to essentially be forced to wing it and not establish good routines and procedures.  What Dana Priest reported was purely policy and does not speak to actual practices at NSA.

    What Snowden has released is essentially design and training materials or more precisely training materials cloned from design documents.  That speaks of slapdash, low-cost, expendient action in order to suck every penny of profit from a fixed-price contract or a fixed-price job.

    To say that we need to be skeptical of both what Snowden/Greenwald and others are reporting (reporting has been by others besides Greenwald and sources other than Snowden) is to say that there needs to be an strong independent investigation on the scale of the Church committee of what our secret government is doing.  I agree.  But demeaning the messengers and spouting the NSA line works against getting such an investigation.

    Of course, the bigger isssue is the propensity of the bloated defense-intelligence institutions to look for another enemy to preserve their budgets and feed their contractors.  And the pattern is for the clandestine services to go around whacking hornets nests until we have and enemy.   Look at the rush to push China and Russia into the enemy role just because they offered Snowden asylum, something that the US gave without question to oodles of folks escaping criminal charges in their home countries.

    Tha fundamental fact is that really for the past two decades the US has not had a conventional geopolitical enemy.  Competitors for economic resources and wealth we have in abundance, even among the occupied Europeans, Japanese, Taiwanese, and South Koreans that are our "allies".

    In order to justify what NSA is doing, there must be an enemy within to justify domestic surveillance.  The "enemy within" story was a key part of the post-war Red Scare that allowed Joseph McCarthy to gain political power and J. Edgar Hoover to use his files on "subversives" for political power.  NSA provides much more than Hoover could have imagined.

    It is time to stop this juggernaut in its tracks while we have a President whom we can trust.  Failure to do this now becomes a scandal for the President and Democrats well into the future.  Moreover, it endangers our system of government in fundamental ways.

    That's the bottom line that most Democrats in Congress are missing.  There are not guarantees over who controls Congress, the Presidency, or the courts.  Snowden used the term "turnkey tyranny" without implying that President Obama has turned the key.  Which means that Snowden's concern is about someone in the Presidency who is cynical enought to know how to use the NSA to shut down dissent and political opposition.  Someone with the mindset of a Richard Nixon or a Dick Cheney.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:36:13 AM PDT

    •  I just saw (17+ / 0-)

      this a.m. a quote of Wyden on Obama's proposed reforms.  

      He feels that the reforms (reform of FISA court, adding an advocate to argue against warrant requests, for example) will put an end to mass collection of domestic data.  

      He said the reforms were the same thing he himself proposed.

      He is still concerned that Obama hasn't fully acknowledged the problem or abuses that may have occurred.

      And he is concerned that legal surveillance of foreign targets can be used to "back door" surveillance of U.S. citizens.  He says he will push for those reforms as well.

      Wyden says this about the reforms.  And he says he will continue to push.

      So it seems like the President isn't "missing" as much as folks around here think.  

      No one was demeaned in this dairy, and there was nothing in this diary spouting the NSA line - which seems to be "nothing to see here, it's all good".

      Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Barack Obama

      by delphine on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:16:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think TarheelDem was talking about (4+ / 0-)

        Vyan when he said the "demeaning the messengers and spouting the NSA line."

        This seems actually like a thoughtful counter comment.

        "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

        by ranger995 on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:29:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And who is the advocate? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TarheelDem, k9disc, CroneWit, emal

        The proposed system is easily corrupted by selecting as an advocate someone who cares little for civil liberties. There is no perfect mechanism. While having outside review can help to reduce abuses, one need merely look at what has happened to corporate boards--with their one or two outside members-- to see how insiders can run rings around even well-intentioned outsiders... and how the insiders can choose outsiders who are easily corrupted, manipulated, or fooled.

        No, only sustained and intense congressional oversight, with its members chosen by we the people, is a sufficient safeguard.

        •  Are you saying (4+ / 0-)

          that every warrant needs congressional approval?

          Why would the advocate not care about civil liberties?  Wouldn't we know that going in?

          Plus, congressional leadership doesn't have a problem with the status quo.  the last person you want making these arguments is congress.

          Look at the clowns that are getting elected by "we the people".

          Have an ACLU attorney in there.  Would you trust the advocate then?

          Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Barack Obama

          by delphine on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:12:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Every warrant should be subject to... (0+ / 0-)

            Every warrant should be subject to congressional (and independent judicial) review.

            That's the basis of a democratic republic, that we do not have a secret government, making up its own rules.  

            Why would an advocate not care about civil liberties? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Kim Jong Un, the dictator of North Korea, became president of the US. He has to work with a perfectly democratic system. However, he also gets to choose the advocate for civil liberties for the secret police.

            What sort of advocate would he choose?  

            You ask, "Look at the clowns that are getting elected by "we the people".

            That's what democracy is and always has been. You elect a bunch of clowns and, under the pressures to please constituents, obey the Constitution and the judiciary, not get mocked by a free press (and so on), it manages to produce a respectable result. We have done so for over 200 years. If you object to it, then you are advocating an aristocracy.  

            You ask, "Have an ACLU attorney in there.  Would you trust the advocate then?"

            Of course not!  The ACLU not only can be corrupted, it once was corrupted (by the tobacco industry). In the American system, we do not trust individuals, because individuals can go wrong. Remember the quote that We establish "a government of laws, not men"? (John Adams), That's the definition of the rule of law.

            Americans trust facts, not individuals, and for that we must have transparency.

            •  WTF? ACLU "... once was corrupted (by (0+ / 0-)

              the tobacco industry)"??...Care to prove that? Just because they may have stood up for the constitutional rights of persons in that industry, as they have stood for the constitutional rights of other odious/unpopular persons, that doesn't make them corrupt. Everyone, even nasty corporate profiteers, has a right to free speech. What we need is someone who will stand up for the rights of (potential) terrorists...who better? It's not a popular position, not the sort of thing elected officials can be trusted to safeguard.

              "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

              by Alice in Florida on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 06:15:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Please do try to keep up (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Statement of Melvin L. Wulf

                I was legal director of the national ACLU from 1962 to 1977. ...The revelations in the book [Cigarette Confidential] support the conclusion that the ACLU's mission is being corrupted by the attraction of easy money from an industry whose ethical values are themselves notoriously corrupt and which is responsible for the death annually of 350,000 to 400,000 persons in the US alone. I am saddened by the fact that the ACLU allows itself to be used in this manner. The ACLU board of directors has an obligation to take stern steps to protect the Union from further corruption of its values.

                If you want to argue with me calling the ACLU's actions with regard to tobacco "corrupt," argue instead with their own legal director.

                If you want all the nuance to the story, I recommend Morton Mintz's note in Neiman Reports:

                The documents demonstrate, author [of Cigarette Confidential John] Fahs declared, that the ACLU undertook work "on behalf of cigarette direct exchange for funding—a quid pro quo arrangement in direct conflict with the institution's status as a government-subsidized, tax-exempt, nonprofit institution [emphasis added]."
                The ACLU has done many fine things, a few idiotic things, and one corrupt thing, namely take money from tobacco companies to support "smoker's rights"-- the right to kill others with second hand smoke, for example.

                The ACLU's corruption is a lesson to us all: don't engage in hero worship. Don't trust anyone unequivocally. Ask questions. Demand oversight. If necessary, prosecute and punish. But never, ever forget with what difficulty the freedom to exercise our rights has been won and how easily fools surrender them.  

      •  Wyden is constrained (12+ / 0-)

        ... paradoxically enough by his position in Congress and on the Senate Intelligence Committee from being a forthright as he could have been 40 years ago.  Congress passed ruled to prevent another Mike Gravel from reading classified documents into the Congressional Record with impunity.

        So take what Wyden does and says as hand signals about what he cannot talk about until the news media expose it, which is what the documents provided by Snowden has done.  It has allowed to speak about what the public already knows but only after the public has been informed.

        IMO, the issues are more fundamental and go back 66 years to the Cold War security architecture introduced in the Truman administration--and the persistence of the Espionage Act of 1917, instituted in the Wilson administration.

        The executive branch, regardless of the President, has been demonstrated over the past 40 years not to want to give up these para-Constitutional powers blessed by legal precedent.   It will take popular demand and Congressional action to restore the proper balance of powers in the US government.

        Those sort of changes are better done now instead of later.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:55:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That makes no sense (5+ / 0-)

          because (a) Wyden says it's a big deal, (b) Wyden proposes some fixes, (c) Obama adopts those fixes, (d) Wyden praises that while saying more needs to be done.

          There are no hand signals.  Wyden has not been shy about this and has openly and loudly proclaimed the problem long before Snowden.  

          Don't dismiss what the President is doing if Wyden doesn't.  Wyden's no shy flower.

          Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Barack Obama

          by delphine on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:08:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wyden is not satisfied (4+ / 0-)

            ...with the failure to deal with backdoor searches by NSA.  But he is satisfied with what the President has done---as far as it goes.

            They most certainly have been hand signals.  Wyden has been concerned about the FISA court's overly broad and secret rulings for years but could not be specific until an example of one of those rulings was published with the first Glenn Greenwald article about Snowden's information.

            The President has been and still is stonewalling, only moving in response to further revelations and seeking to shut down the debate.  Dealing with this issue proactively would be much more sweeping in its implications.  The White House staff is much to cautious and secretive about this.

            Wyden's no shy flower but he cannot share all he knows about NSA abuses even now.

            Delay and stonewalling has hurt the President's and the White House's credibility already.

            I have enough understanding of the technology that is involved to be very worried about the future of Constitutional rule in this country.   Half-measures don't assuage that worry, but tells me that the executive offices of government are beginning to see ordinary citizens as the enemy.

            50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

            by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:32:14 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I guess (3+ / 0-)

              I see things differently.

              I respect Wyden, so if he feels he can't share something, I figure he has a good reason.

              I respect the President (not as much as I do Wyden on this, goes without saying) so I generally don't put a nefarious spin on what he does.

              I don't see any untoward delay.  You might not like his reaction but he immediately put people together to figure out solutions.  He looked into it on his own volition before Snowden, and perhaps he erroneously thought controls were in place but it didn't take Snowden for him to take a look.

              I don't automatically assume the NSA wants to spy on us.  I think they just want to grab data because they like the methodology (even if it isn't productive), not because they really want to read my or your emails.

              I'm heartened to hear that the President's first major response to this is to embrace in good part what Wyden is calling for.  

              Figuring out a solution to the backdoor issue may be a bit more complicated, though.  And in a way that can't really be discussed out in the open but should be discussed with people like Wyden.  How do we continue surveillance on foreign nationals who are suspected terrorists without grabbing up American citizens' information?  Is that even possible - it's likely a terrorist might have a friend or even family member who is an innocent American citizen but monitoring his phone calls will necessarily snag their interaction with him as well.

              Does the NSA then go back to ask for a warrant for every incidental data snag?  Maybe, if that works logistically.  But it could be a daily occurrence.  

              I don't know the solution, but I do know it's not as easy as "fix FISA" and "stop wholesale grab of Americans' information."

              I don't ascribe the nefarious spin on the administration or even the NSA that you do.  I still think they're wrong and things need to change.

              Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. Barack Obama

              by delphine on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:41:19 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Interesting question (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                emal, Progressive Witness, Chi
                Does the NSA then go back to ask for a warrant for every incidental data snag?  Maybe, if that works logistically.  But it could be a daily occurrence.  
                The Constitution says that when you are seizing someone's personal effects that the government must get a warrant that states probable cause.   The Supreme Court has, contrary to the Englightenment philosophy of fundamental human rights, asserted that the Constitutional protection of the Fourth Amendment applies only to US citizens.  So if ther is a US citizen about whom NSA wants information to refer to the FBI, the NSA or FBI must get  a specific warrant.

                NSA's sole justification for doing this sort of surveillance is US person's communicating with terrorists outside the US.  (FBI handles communications between domestic terrorists.)  The NSA has a staff of tens of thousands.  The number of FISA requests they claim is in the low thousands.  That is not too heavy a load to request a specific warrant.  And does not justify having an associational database of everyone communicating electronically in the world.

                Someone needs to ask the NSA directly and pointedly why they are collecting all that data because the current reasons they give are not credible technically.  And they seemingly do not want to give up that capability.

                And someone needs to independently audit the NSA and make sure that it is not doing what J. Edgar Hoover used to do to preserve his budget.

                Sunlight still is the best disinfectant.  And having Congress get to the point of asking White House aides "What did the President know and when did he know it?" is not something that needs to happen to this President if he is indeed dealing with this issue.   It's been four and a half years in office and it is clear that dealing with the issue piecemeal is not working.

                50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

                by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 01:11:04 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Former Wyden staffer on Administration's (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              emal, Progressive Witness, aliasalias, Chi

              ...response to NSA suveillance leaks

              TechDirt: Jennifer Hoelzer's Insider's View of the Administration's  Response to NSA Surveillance Leaks

              Really, Mr. President? Do you really expect me to believe that you give a damn about open debate and the democratic process? Because it seems to me if your Administration was really committed those things, your Administration wouldn't have blocked every effort to have an open debate on these issues each time the laws that your Administration claims authorizes these programs came up for reauthorization, which -- correct me if I am wrong -- is when the democratic process recommends as the ideal time for these debates.

              For example, in June 2009, six months before Congress would have to vote to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the Obama Administration claims gives the NSA the authority to collect records on basically every American citizen -- whether they have ever or will ever come in contact with a terrorist -- Senators Wyden, Feingold and Durbin sent Attorney General Eric Holder a classified letter "requesting the declassification of information which [they] argued was critical for a productive debate on reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act."

              In November 2009, they sent an unclassified letter reiterating the request, stating:

                  "The PATRIOT Act was passed in a rush after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sunsets were attached to the Act's most controversial provisions, to permit better-informed, more deliberative consideration of them at a later time. Now is the time for that deliberative consideration, but informed discussion is not possible when most members of Congress - and nearly all of the American public - lack important information about the issue."

              Did President Obama jump at the opportunity to embrace the democratic process and have an open debate then? No. Congress voted the following month to reauthorize the Patriot Act without debate.

              In May 2011, before the Senate was -- again -- scheduled to vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act, Senators Wyden and Udall -- again -- called for the declassification of the Administration’s secret interpretation of Section 215. This time, in a Huffington Post Op-Ed entitled "How Can Congress Debate a Secret Law?" they wrote:

                  Members of Congress are about to vote to extend the most controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act for four more years, even though few of them understand how those provisions are being interpreted and applied.

                  As members of the Senate Intelligence Committee we have been provided with the executive branch's classified interpretation of those provisions and can tell you that we believe there is a significant discrepancy between what most people -- including many Members of Congress -- think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and what government officials secretly believe the Patriot Act allows them to do.

                  Legal scholars, law professors, advocacy groups, and the Congressional Research Service have all written interpretations of the Patriot Act and Americans can read any of these interpretations and decide whether they support or agree with them. But by far the most important interpretation of what the law means is the official interpretation used by the U.S. government and this interpretation is -- stunningly --classified.

                  What does this mean? It means that Congress and the public are prevented from having an informed, open debate on the Patriot Act because the official meaning of the law itself is secret. Most members of Congress have not even seen the secret legal interpretations that the executive branch is currently relying on and do not have any staff who are cleared to read them. Even if these members come down to the Intelligence Committee and read these interpretations themselves, they cannot openly debate them on the floor without violating classification rules.

              During the debate itself, Wyden and Udall offered an amendment to declassify the Administration's legal interpretation of its Patriot Act surveillance authorities and, in a twenty minute speech on the Senate floor, Wyden warned that the American people would one day be outraged to learn that the government was engaged in surveillance activities that many Americans would assume were illegal, just as they were every other time the national security committee has tried to hide its questionable activities from the American people.

              50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

              by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 04:55:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, I agree with all of that. (10+ / 0-)

      The crux of the argument lays in the same place I pointed too - whether it's Constitutional to build a haystack to search even if you don't allow those searches until after you've found a lead and gone to the FISA court with it.

      And whether, with out the single haystack, but dozens of smaller haystacks residing within on the original corporate servers that you could still effectively access and collate the same information.

      I have severe doubts that you could in the later case, and the Constitutionality of the haystack itself remains a fair and serious issue.  I'm not yet certain if you can place enough procedural (or front end interface) procedures in place to protect the haystack when a sysadmin can always go in through the backdoor.

      I absolutely agree with you on the self-perpetuating nature of defense budgets, but I disagree about the "enemy-within" argument. NSA isn't deliberately targeting domestic surveillance, they're only picking up some of it inadvertently as a part of their foreign phone surveillance efforts (PRISM data collection from the web is, as I understand it Foreign only by design), then vetting it to ensure that's it IS foreign, and then if it's domestic it's only retained if their are exigency issues.

      Conceptually I'm sanguine with this approach as a strong preventive measure from a return to what we saw under Nixon and Hoover with COINTELPRO.  But that's doesn't mean I think we should ignore this and just "move along".

      The system always has the potential for abuse, and that potential rises and falls entirely on who the next President and the next Congress turn out to be.

      •  We actually do not know NSA's intent (6+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JVolvo, Burned, wasatch, emal, aliasalias, Chi
        NSA isn't deliberately targeting domestic surveillance, they're only picking up some of it inadvertently as a part of their foreign phone surveillance efforts (PRISM data collection from the web is, as I understand it
        What we know is that the agency has been slapped down in the 1970s, in the 2004-2005 period, and in 2008 as having gone too far.  But we don't know that the actual practices have been corrected, only that legislation sought to correct them.

        That bureaucratic momentum in the absence of effective oversight makes me less sanguine than you seem to be.  And also the hash that DHS made of the Occupy movement is not encouraging as to a return to Constitutional order.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:28:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The system has less potential for abuse (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Burned, emal, aliasalias

        ...if it has fewer capabilities with which to carry out that abuse.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:29:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, of course (0+ / 0-)

          but then crippling the system for the sake of privacy might also make it less effective and give a potential terrorist more room to maneuver and strike.  This is the constant conundrum, but I would also say this - thanks to Snowden - the fact that these systems are now known means that they will gradually be brought under control.  What happened before with Total Information Management was they shut that program down only to have it crop up again under a different name - so I'd rather not go back down that path either.

      •  What about NYPD having that haystack? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I really, really doubt you would say "Oh, the NYPD can access it - but they're not allowed to!"

        I think you're being way to "meh" about the NSA. They're actually much worse in many ways than the NYPD as far as checks and balances go.

      •  Actually, I heard a journalist say that (0+ / 0-)

        the problem with your "haystack" is that it consists not just of a pile of smaller haystacks, but that it, shall we say, preserves a pile of hay that would otherwise be burned....the corporations don't preserve the phone records longer than they need to for billing and such...I don't recall the amount of time, it might have been like six months or something. In other words, leaving it with corporations would preserve privacy through periodic purges of data that prevent the construction of a super-database with vast potential for abuse.

        "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

        by Alice in Florida on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 06:28:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'm going through and reccing... (0+ / 0-)

      ...every comment between TarheelDem and delphine on the thread off of this comment. This is what conversation involving differing viewpoints on this topic should look like, regardless of which comments I might tend more to agree with.

      We need light more than heat.

      No pie in sight. That's nice.


      "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." --MLK

      by Progressive Witness on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 07:32:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, I'm still worried about the potential for (17+ / 0-)

    abuse, especially if we get an unelected Administration again, like we did in 2000.

    That being said, this is a quality diary with lots of detailed analysis that has given me more insight into the issue.

    Thus, tipped an recced.

    And thank you for taking the time to write this piece.

    "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

    by Lawrence on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:36:44 AM PDT

  •  Nicely done! I joined you a couple of (17+ / 0-)

    weeks ago.  I'm not happy about ANY metadata collection but it's the 21st Century and it's here to stay.  

    I'll be easier in my mind once the changes Obama outlined occur.  In the meantime I have a whole damn legislature up in my privates and more than half a million women without healthcare to worry about, and that's just in one state.  Would that this issue generated the passion of the rox/sux wars on DK.

    I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

    by I love OCD on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:36:48 AM PDT

  •  What a breath of fresh air, Vyan... (25+ / 0-)

    This is a very thoughtful post, and I thank you for it.

    I have mixed feelings on this whole shebang... and it changes almost daily LOL.  Reading this is truly a breath of fresh air to me -- and I love the no "outrage". You did an excellent job of being objective and keeping the emotion and 'outrage' out of this.

    Thank you :)

  •  The Small World Experiment. Only "Three Hops" (13+ / 0-)

    I keep hearing this and I want to pull my hair out. I bet most folks here have heard of the game "Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon."

    That concept was based in work done by Stanley Milgram. Here is what he did. He picked some folks in Omaha, Nebraska and gave them a letter and said it needed to reach this person in Boston that was a banker. They were NOT given his name but just basic info.

    They were told to mail the package to somebody that might know the Boston banker. That person they mailed the package to was told to do the same.

    Long story short it got to the person in an average of 7 people. Seven degrees..

    Facebook has done this again and found it was 3.4 to almost anybody in the world.

    When they talk about "hops" to three calls it might not seem like that much. But if you and I talk. Then you look at who each of us talk to. And then each of those people, gosh knows where it goes.

    But alas we are NOT talking about this.

    •  I thought that was exactly what (9+ / 0-)

      we're talking about.  "Our laws have not kept up with our technology."  We can't reverse the technology so we come up with meaningful legal restrictions, update as necessary.  

      I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

      by I love OCD on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:54:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Data People Like Data (10+ / 0-)

        and they ALWAYS want more. More, more, more!

        Let me give you an example. Before I started to work for myself I was the VP of Marketing for an online software firm. We spent around $25,000/month in Google keyword ads.

        I controlled everything but I only wanted to look at a few variables. The owner of the firm wanted to look at like 100 things. I left the firm over this cause I was drowning in data.

        I couldn't get any work done cause I was focused on things I knew didn't matter, but cause the data was there my boss wanted to know about it.

        That, on a level like 100,000,000 times smaller level is the problem with these programs (if I even agreed with them -- and I don't).

        More is NOT better. Targeted data is better.

        •  It's the same with intelligence. (11+ / 0-)

          In Afghanistan the Marines would just walk up a valley and search every house for IED equipment or weapons caches. Never found any, and pissed off the locals something fierce.

          The SF only searched houses that they gathered specific intelligence on, and they actually recovered a whole mess of mines, wire, ammunition, arms, etc.

          "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

          by ranger995 on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:18:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  that used to be called (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, I love OCD, Chi

          'casting a drift net over the thin places'
          'box cutters' were not in the thin places, but in mainstreet hardware stores.
          things changed.

          "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

          by kj in missouri on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:59:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes they did, and I doubt that (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kj in missouri, Chi

            9/11 would have happened on Gore's watch because the Clinton administration was watching AQ really closely.  When the incoming administration's first press blast is lies about the former administration pulling "w's" out of keyboards and trashing Air Force One you know these assholes aren't taking the job seriously.  They ignored the intelligence, plain and simple, because everyone knows Democrats are dumb about Foreign Policy and defense.  It's that crass and that tragic.  We would not be in this mess if the 2000 election had been honest.  

            So how about we make damn sure 2014 is a complete mobfuck for the Republicans, and 2016 puts Karl Rove in mothballs for good.  

            I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

            by I love OCD on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 03:28:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  what you said. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              highacidity, I love OCD

              i'm hoping Kos' new Activist Team is on the state elections with the focus of a laser because we're far, far, far deep in the mess that found solid roots in the Impeachment Follies and took, TOOK! its first win with Selection 2000.

              what you said.

              "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

              by kj in missouri on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 03:32:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, they do, and I seriously doubt (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wasatch, Chi

          that we as a nation want the kind of global query capability that is being talked about here, even with a few checkpoints added to it. The diarist asked:

          Ultimately we as a Nation have to make a decision whether avoiding that nightmare, and the possibility that crucial data may be lost in the cracks of those imperfect data-joins is worth the risk of having a big giant shoe-string ball of data sitting in the desert
          and to me the answer is "no" we don't want the big giant ball of data lying around. The reason is simple. Even if all your data is locked up somewhere Really Safe (honest!), it is an enormously scary thing to think about everything you do on the Web or over the phone being recorded and stored by your government. Even if it's "just" metadata it is still scary. Everyone who has cheated on a spouse, every journalist who has communicated with a secret source, every dissident who has said and done things the government doesn't like, now has to worry that someone, sometime, is going to unlock the big cabinet and pull out something that will destroy them or people who depend on them.

          That is what it was like living under a police state like East Germany. That is what we want to avoid.

    •  6 degrees not 7 (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      webranding, Larsstephens, wasatch

      nitpick, sorry

    •  But that 3.4 degrees seems to be (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ranger995, JVolvo, wasatch, aliasalias, Chi

      EXACTLY what the government is "talking" about.

      Have any middle eastern friends? You're suspicious. Italian friends? Or Eastern European? Organized crime. Irish? Possible old IRA contacts.

      Spanish? Basque separatists. Central/Southern American friends? Cuban supporters/communists..

      Mexican? Narco-homocidal maniacs.

      Blacks? Gangs. Duh.

      Send me a list of your friends, Webranding, and we can establish that you're intimately connected (via 3-4 hops) to many of the most criminal violent elements in the world.

      Not only should we keep tabs on everything you do, you should be locked up.

      How do you look in orange?  

      © grover

      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:07:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sure.. that's an issue (4+ / 0-)

      but it's also - up to a point - a valid strategy for trying to identify patterns of activity that may be suspicious.  I would hope that upon identifying a flagged set of number much further detailed intel about that specific person would then be gathered (and if they are domestic, with a warrant), and some of that seems to be the case based on the Washington Post article.

      In the end though this situation needs a close set of eyes on it, even within the Black World setting.

  •  makes sense (9+ / 0-)

    I think what made me scratch my head about this whole thing is how sys admins can be outsourced for such sensitive purposes and how they can work with so little oversight. Is this really Snowden's fault? Now, if we only had people with technical expertise in politics...

    Stay-at-home-Moms: Hard working unless they're on welfare, then they're lazy. Just ask any Republican.

    by musicsleuth on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:00:16 AM PDT

    •  Story. Pre-9/11. A Good Friend Of Mine (6+ / 0-)

      wanted me to help him get a job running a help desk at the ATF in DC. Had a client which they outsourced that too. He was a friend (very good friend), but I knew he lied on every line of his resume. It was a running joke among our group of friends. I refused.

      My favorite is the line in his resume where he joked about getting an MBA at a school in Amsterdam, and he just went there to smoke pot ....

      He got the job on his own, and he knows his shit, but just saying. Holds it to this day .....

      •  Don't people verify resumes? I mean in the (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        webranding, grover, Larsstephens

        jobs I apply for they require my grad school transcripts (diploma's not good enough) and DD214.

        "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

        by ranger995 on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:14:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Clearly They Don't (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ranger995, Larsstephens

          I am with you, when I apply to a job I have had to do a ton of shit (this was years ago). I once went on a 18 hour interview over two days and had to do Google like stuff to get the job.

          This dude didn't.

          I mean I have had references I listed be called and asked for their references :). But I am NOT making up the above. It was a running thing we talked about with my group of friends.

          •  Oh, I believe you. Maybe he's just a real charmer. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            grover, Larsstephens

            I wouldn't think of lying on my resume. Some of my friends and mentors have told me that I need to embellish a little though. I guess everyone does it to some extent.

            "If you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing!" (on a sign at a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans)

            by ranger995 on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:22:13 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I thought Booz recently fired someone (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          because they found out she hadn't checked backgrounds or references.

          Maybe it was a different contractor. But I'd swear it was Booz.

          Too bad. If I had known, I could have used an exciting 6-figure job. I'm kind of tired of the same old...

          © grover

          So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

          by grover on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:36:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The whole thing is outsourced. (7+ / 0-)

      It's a government/corporate beard.

      The .com gets corporate freedom, the Bill of Rights, and freedom from FoIA and the .gov gets the force of the State and National Security exemptions.

      Public/Private is totally not the way to go with something as powerful as global omniscience. The conflict of interests is breathtaking.

      Oh, and it's run by the Carlyle Group.

      Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

      by k9disc on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:04:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i disagree (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, emal, Chi

    with the 'didn't hurt his career' idea. How do you know that?  How do you know that nobody has a file on the pres with embarrassing web searches,evidence  of extramarital sex, pics of anthony wiener's junk- that sort of thing. who would really be in charge then?

  •  "I must not fear, fear is the mind-killer. (9+ / 0-)

    Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    I will turn the inner eye to see the fear's path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing,
    Only I will remain." - Frank Herbert

    It's fear that got us into this mess. Thanks Vyan

    "Every book is like a door"

    by Hammerhand on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:19:03 AM PDT

  •  Find most of this diary (12+ / 0-)

    To be fair,informative, and civil, but you lose me at the end when you say you are ok because you feel the system for checks and balances is working as you think it should.

    Because some of these new checks and things are only happening due to whistleblowers revelations.

    That is where we part ways. The Fourth Amendment Slippery Slope arguments. ...chip chip chip away.

    First they came for.

    And what happens if is another President who looks the other way here (that loophole remains open from what I understand) The system doesn't need needs an overhaul...stopped on Americans. It didn't stop the Marathon Bomber, apparently distracted by those pesky occupiers who were also exercising their rights to peaceably assemble for the the redress of govt grievances.

    But thanks for the information.

    Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. We are the 99%-OWS.

    by emal on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:21:00 AM PDT

    •  Well... not all of them (4+ / 0-)

      are due to the Snowden revelations.  I was able to find two seperate occasions where the FISA court argued NSA procedures were contrary to the law (2008 & 2010) which at least the first time generated new procedures.  I think that's working the way it should.

      Snowden may have accelerated matters and force the President's hand in clamping down even tighter without the prompting of the court, but it's not like this hadn't already been occurring.

      As far as what a future President might do, that's a reasonable concern - but as long as we have a more balanced approach including an privacy advocate before the FISA court (which I've been thinking about and wanting for years now) as better oversight by Congress I'm less worried about what happens after Obama leaves office than I would have been simply because it would no longer be singularly up to that President.  They would be constrained by the Court & Congress, which is as it should be.

      •  I guess my point being (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        I Lurked For Years, Chi

        The President addressing the issue is due to much of the most recent revelations and documents and reporting.

        I truly think that without it, we would not even be talking about the "fixes" "loopholes" or "metadata versus content", versus the whole outsourcing of NSA spy contracting (another area of concern- outsourcing of this information) or even have the President push for the proposals (which are a good start btw but IMHO much more is needed.)

        You have done a nice job in this post and I appreciate it. You use the fact that nothing came of the spying of the President when he was a Senator so that proves the checks in the system work.  I disagree, I point to General Petraeus as a counter to that. And also just because it appears as nothing came from it doesn't make it right. The potential for blackmailing or entrapment citizens is certainly a potential issue. I  already see a fixing the facts around the NSA collected tips given to the DOJ retroactively that are then covered up when it comes to DOJ mainly regarding drug dealing. Where does it end? What's next? Who's targeted next?

        My other really big issue for me is why does the govt need to collect and store the entire haystack and then search for a needle at a later date. For how long and why? The potential for sabotage, and misuse is enormous. Too many questions for me to be comfortable with all of this and it steps way over the line IMHO.  That huge govt data center in Utah is just wrong on many levels.

        And lastly for now(sorry a bit disjointed in my thoughts here, multitasking)

        We still have yet to see that 2011 FiSC ruling that Judge Reggie Walton has ruled that can be released regarding the unconstitutional nature of something the NSA was doing due to the DOJ fighting it. Why that is the case is bothersome.

        Thanks again for the valid, informative, and constructive points.

        Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. We are the 99%-OWS.

        by emal on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 02:32:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Citing Bob Cesca (0+ / 0-)

    is like citing a Bush apologist.  I am skeptical of what's going on, but it's obviously clear that this system is extremely flawed, and using crap from the Daily Banter isn't going to help build a constructive outcome.

  •  What this diary got right, and what it got wrong (16+ / 0-)

    Until you got down to the loopholes, I was in agreement with this diary. There is little evidence--yet--of actual abuse, at least since the FISA Fix. I was very glad to see someone else pointing out the fact that superusers can easily do things outside of procedure, and even in a manner that can't be audited.

    But the loophole created for domestic crime creates an agency functionally (though perhaps not operationally) very much like Stasi. The idea of Stasi was of turning intelligence gathering capabilities inward, precisely the danger that the NSA chartering process was supposed to make impossible.

    The problem comes with the definition of criminality. As we have seen with the criminalization of dissent, the Pentagon has created watch lists of peaceful protestors. Fusion centers have been created to control and frustrate peaceful dissent, not that the federal government should be getting involved with local protests whether peaceful or not. The NSA has been a part of a fusion center called SOD. In other words, there's no clear bright line between one kind of crime and another that would preserve civil liberties.

    And then there is the problem that we do not know what is going on. In a compartmentalized security system as has been created for national intelligence, it is not difficult for a person, a group of persons, or even an agency to go rogue. This is what emerged from the Church Committee hearings. Unless there is serious congressional oversight--which may be impossible in a Congress focused so totally on fundraising--the citizenry should not have confidence that this is not happening.

    You argue that querying individual telecomm databases would be a nightmare because the queries might be structured differently. The government could instruct the companies to create a single query. Problem solved without having the NSA having control of the databases. And a check/balance is created, especially if the companies are free to challenge warrants.  

    But the biggest flaw in this diary is that it takes one event--the rise of Barack Obama despite reports he was wiretapped--as evidence that no serious harm can come. As I have diaried, one of the biggest dangers of surveillance is that it changes behavior in ways that are not benign. It destroys the dynamism and creativity of society when people feel they are always on camera. America is built on risk-taking, second chances, spontaneity. Sure, there's no evidence that the system has been used for blackmail. But surveillance itself creates the fear so essential for blackmail.  

    The bottom line is that the NSA has produced very little of value specifically in preventing terrorism. It has consumed enormous resources and it has the potential of seriously endangering civil liberties. The costs are too high and the benefits too low.

    •  The NSA is a MILITARY entity (10+ / 0-)

      Agreed on your comment. The NSA falls under the Department of Defense. It should have absolutely nothing to do with seeking evidence about crime—it should be strictly about military intelligence.

      And we already know of massive abuse in general, with that article from this week about law enforcement agencies laundering NSA intelligence information with a re-created parallel evidence trail. I look forward to revelations about specific cases to blow the lid off of that aspect of the scandal.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 10:56:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe a better example might be (5+ / 0-)

      Homeland Security and their surveillance of Occupy. Or the use of NSA data by the DEA, which was later scrubbed.

      I do take your point, but I think the potential for abuse isn't inherent in the data-collection, it's in the use of that data by the end-point domestic agencies such as DOJ, FBI, DEA, HSA & ATF.

      Keeping our law enforcement, both local and Federal, from crossing the line is an ongoing struggle, and it's one I'm fairly dedicated to staying on top of.

      The problem with the separate queries isn't just that they could "create a single query"  - they'd have to create a common query result that could then be aggregated and searched again to find correlations and matches across various providers and across various data sources.  I've done some work along the path in transferring data from one set of databases in one format to another in a SQL format which would be accessible on the web.  Collating the data once is much more efficient and productive than doing it's 300 times (once for each query) times each provider (which I believe there are about 10-12 or so), then taking those 10-12 different results and sorting through them again.

      That's what I call a nightmare.  It's certainly doable, but it would just plain suck - which is I think why they constructed the system as they did.  From a data mining standpoint it makes more sense to do it the way they have, but as is quite clear - the increased power and access to more and more raw data this provides it directly proportional the potential level of abuse that could occur.

      Some would argue it's simply better not to build it at all.  I'm on the fence about that particularly since there at have been some claims made, that as many as 50 credible plots were thwarted with this system.

      Might it be used domestically against "suspected criminals and/or dissidents here"?  Maybe, hopefully not.  We'll unfortunately, have to wait and see.

      •  The example given is the one you mention (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        emal, I Lurked For Years, aliasalias

        1. SOD is the fusion center that shared information with DEA. For that matter, there's some question whether NSA was a source for DHS involvement in suppressing the Occupy protests.
        2. The claim of 50 terrorist plots foiledhas been drastically revised downward. The best estimate at present is 0-1.  
        3. You say that "the potential for abuse isn't inherent in the data-collection." This is like saying that the potential for bank robbery is not inherent in having all that money in one place.
        4. As for data analysis, the proper way to do it is this: through real intelligence work, identify a particular telephone number that belongs to a person who is suspected of terrorism. Then search the database for the contacts of that person. That doesn't require an integrated, government-controlled database. If it's less efficient, too bad. Hire some extra help. Our civil liberties are much, much more important than efficiency.

  •  Bookmarked, filed under: 'Sanity' (9+ / 0-)


    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:52:36 AM PDT

  •  Thanks. On the subject of leaving the data (6+ / 0-)

    with corporations, this post deals with the issue and shares your concerns.

    Further, affiant sayeth not. 53959

    by Gary Norton on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 09:57:46 AM PDT

  •  The next agency to look at for (9+ / 0-)

    ...overreach in domestic surveillance.

    National Geospatial Intelligence Agency

    Among their contractor is CACI, a contractor with a notorious human rights record in Iraq.

    CACI plans to emphasize its geospatial capabilities

    There's a whole rotten nest of boondoggles and overreach of legal and Constitutional limitations that are costing the US taxpayer billions and not increasing our security one whit.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 10:03:42 AM PDT

  •  What needs to be seriously regarded if not feared (10+ / 0-) the erosion of the rule of law. Without the rule of law - reliable, public, swift, proportional, top to bottom rule of law in every day life - no one is safe regardless of technology, high, low, or no technology.

  •  Very informative. Thank you for this. (11+ / 0-)

    There's so much out there, so many moving parts. I appreciate you laying this out and added your own, experienced-based perspective. Kudos.

  •  Thanks for sharing your understanding of Tech (14+ / 0-)

    issues as they apply to the NSA discussion, and for your explanation of the FISA court.

    Please share your thoughts on this:

    Binney was part of designing a collection system (ThinThread) that gathered the necessary terrorist-related information without creating the 'haystack', and thus did not contain the Fourth Amendment violations inherent in the 'collect-it-all' haystack system.  Both Binney and Drake (and two others, iirc) went through whistleblower channels to protest Hayden's choice of a haystack approach because of the Fourth Amendment issues and because of the cronyist funding-fest that accompanied it.  Binney, Drake, et. al. were punished, Hayden got his haystack-building system, and gazillions of dollars were spent to get us where we are today.  (This summary is from memory, based on a Tim Shorrock article (book excerpt); I can track down the link if necessary, but I'm going to assume that this is common knowledge to the readers by now.)

    So, my question, for your consideration:  are there any technical reasons that would make a ThinThread-like system unworkable?

  •  Side topic: Would a "two-man rule" stop SOD? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    k9disc, emal, CroneWit, Justanothernyer
    If the government is going to maintain a system like this, there will always be away around the security, particularly if those entrusted with All the Access happen to be the ones who choose to abuse it.
    It's the overlap between agencies. Specifically the "war on drugs". Targeting of certain groups of people more than other groups

    “Tips” from SOD (special operations division) under the DEA are being used by officials to investigate Americans.

    The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
    - emphasis added
    Rachel Maddow interviews John Shiffman, the author the Reuters story.

    (short commercial – sorry)
    Transcript @ link:  

    One of the first rules under SOD reads: Utilization if SOD cannot be revealed or discussed

    This doesn’t sound legal or good:

    The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
    Among many comments is this opinion from a Harvard Law professor and former judge:
    "I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

    "It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations."

    NSA surveillance program is now be used to target domestic drug deals and if I’m getting this right, then reverse engineers the evidence if a case goes to court.
    "It's just like laundering money - you work it backwards to make it clean," said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.

    Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using "parallel construction" may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants.

    So now making shit up is called “parallel construction”

    That’s where the bloat is – imo –  and it looks as though the patriot act is being challenged - August 6, 2013

    Cornell Law School lines up the flaws in the Patriot Act vs the Constitution

    Reuters: (with video) - By John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke WASHINGTON | Mon Aug 5, 2013 3:25pm EDT

    Reuters direct t link to SOD rules manual:

  •  Giant holes here (13+ / 0-)

    There are several massive problems that remain even with your fix. We need the following
    1) independent review of individualized warrants by individuals outside of the executive branch. The obvious problem with the whole "superior review" is that everyone invoked depends on compliance with NSA direction to retain their job.  Having a "compliance officer" is the functional equivalent of no review at all.  It doesn't nothing to protect against systematics abuse.  So if there is no judicial warrant, there is no constitutional search

    2) if there is a need for the data haystack, it need to also be housed independently, perhaps by a Congressional agency.  If the NSA wants to query, they show the warrant and are allowed to enter.  Frankly the "burning building" analogy is the same as the ticking time bomb analogy used to justify torture: it virtually never happens and isn't much justification for a generalized rule.

    3) there also needs to be genuinely independent auditors.  Again, the auditors cannot be answerable for their jobs to the same agency conducting the surveillance.  Again, I might establish an independent prosecutors office or se other body not answerable to the president.  

    Because the worst that can happen isn't Obama being surveilled it is MLK being surveilled and having eavesdropping being added to caging, voter ID laws, molitarized police, gerrymandering, and all the other voter and activist surpression tools available to the government.  Probably the worst the can happen is that the executive branch gets enough power to disrupt effective opposition such that the party in power maintains a gip on power in perpetuity through winning a series of close elections.  I would offer the example of the PRI of Mexico for an example.

    Under such a scheme, all other liberal policy efforts would stop dead, permanently.   I think that such a grip on power by the GOP in particular would go very poorly for minorities and working people.

    There’s no way for a healthy human being to maintain the level of outrage warranted by the situation. - Dave Roberts,

    by Mindful Nature on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 10:49:29 AM PDT

  •  ah just slip into... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kentucky Kid, emal, CroneWit, Chi

    ...apathy just to prove you have the sangfroid to do it.

    And collecting everyone's data, the haystack, on the premise we might need to look through it if someone at a later date act suspicious is like requiring everyone in a town submit to a complete inventory of all their possessions on the chance that one of them might become a thief later.

    What should happen is they start collecting the data after someone becomes a suspect.  When they have probable cause.  Not just say hey now there is probable cause so we can look through the pile of data we already have and see what we got on people we didn't think were a problem before.  A pile of data Snowden has proven can be stolen or misused.

    And since the FISA and most of the apparatus is secret most of what you quoted above comes from leaks, forced releases or hearsay.

    And given the number of times the police break down the wrong door and kill people based on bad information or informants I don't know if you help help line is good one especially since the police seem at times to make up shit to justify their actions at a later date.

    Also think about this I posted in another diary.

    if the cube root of the population of the united states is less than the average, or maybe median, number of unique telephone numbers dialed by the population of the united states within the amount of time used as selection criteria by the NSA the new 3 hop rule for justifying inspection of records in the newly released white paper would cover all the population of the united states.

    We Glory in war, in the shedding of human blood. What fools we are.

    by delver rootnose on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:10:43 AM PDT

  •  Why do we need it? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kentucky Kid, emal, aliasalias, Chi

    "America is the Terror State. The Global War OF Terror is a diabolical instrument of Worldwide conquest."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:18:42 AM PDT

  •  There is no such thing as an Intelligence (5+ / 0-)

    Agency, since the time of Elizabeth I, which is not helmed and top-level-staffed with Authoritarians, rightwingers, racists, and paranoids (in both the "fear" and "grandiosity" senses.)

    The books are all in on J Edgar Hoover, Allen Dulles, James Jesus Angleton, etc. in our own national experience.

    How much power do you want to give these people in secret?

    What you have to realize is that "needing authorization" when at any time the Authorities can say "pick these political enemies to surveille" or even "pick these politicians to surveille" -- well, there's the root reality which no "protection" will ever, ever, make go away.

    We need to end the Stalking. Entirely. And both business and government stalking. The one lone exception should be a warrant presented in a real (not special) court, issued after presentation of probable cause.

    There is, nor can there be, any protection superior to that. And most likely, forced to do real detective work rather than a dragnet, probably the most productive from the viewpoint of national security.

    Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

    by Jim P on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:19:16 AM PDT

  •  Really good diary. (4+ / 0-)

    Tipped and Recc'ed because details matter.

    I am so sick and tired of the way these issues are being talked about.

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:25:50 AM PDT

  •  You do realize that the origin of your title (0+ / 0-)

    was meant ironically, no?

    The Best and the Brightest!
    Born in the USA!

    That said, nicely done with the first 2/3 of the post.

    Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

    by Simplify on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:28:04 AM PDT

  •  Snowden is lying. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, etherealfire

    He didn't just say he could do what he did, but that he had the authority. That's the key distinction. He said he had "the authorities" to wiretap anyone. The ability to do so is not the authority to do so.

    Otherwise, great post. Recommended.

    •  Authority (6+ / 0-)

      From the system perspective authority may mean merely what level of permissions he had to access or perform certain functions on the system. Not that he had legal permission to do anything he wanted to at any time.

      “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

      by Catte Nappe on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:45:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Authority strongly implies that he had (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, etherealfire

        a legal right to do what he did. Access permissions are not authority. Full stop.

        He essentially said that he could just access anyone's private information which implies that there are minimal legal safeguards or deterrents to protect private information. Well, I can go buy a gun and shoot someone, but that doesn't make murder legal.

        •  meh (0+ / 0-)

          Sysadmins may have "authorities" or "permissions"; neither term has anything to do with legal rights. Accusing Snowden of "lying" based on what you think his word choice "strongly implies" isn't reasonable.

          Well, I can go buy a gun and shoot someone, but that doesn't make murder legal.
          Can you read my email or listen to my phone calls ad lib, legally or otherwise?

          Seriously, legality is not the only issue here.

          "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

          by HudsonValleyMark on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:23:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It is really the only relevant issue here. (0+ / 0-)

            Otherwise the argument is reduced to the absurd premise that the mere collection of this data is intrusive outside any legal context, and that it's somehow intrusive for the NSA to allow sysadmins to access data but not say Microsoft or Apple.

            The whole reason people are wary about the government's access of this information is because the government has legal authorities that private industry does not.

            •  Private industry (3+ / 0-)

              does have the authority to look at their own data, but not the data of another organization.  

            •  "outside any legal context"? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              There is a legal context known as constitutional law, and many people believe that the "mere collection of this data" is indeed an unconstitutional intrusion. That is debatable, but it isn't absurd. People's concerns about what "the government" or its agents might do aren't and shouldn't be limited to what they are legally authorized to do.

              There is also the prudential concern that the NSA may be gathering far more data about our lives than any one private industry, posing far greater dangers. Even if the danger is only additive (one more set of people who have access to the data, regardless of any connections between data), the Snowden affair raises questions about whether it has been adequately managed.

              "I am not sure how we got here, but then, I am not really sure where we are." -Susan from 29

              by HudsonValleyMark on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 01:55:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Respectfully, I think it is absurd. (0+ / 0-)

                If the mere collection of metadata were unconstitutional, then why wouldn't the collection of any kind of personally identifying data also be?

                Data and its collection are not in and of themselves invasive. What's invasive is the use of that data to identify persons not under suspicion and their private information.

        •  No, "Authority" is a term of Security Art (6+ / 0-)

          not necessarily a legal term.  Security Authorities are established by the SysAdmin, and the SysAdmin by default has all Authorities.

          Regular NSA Analyst swould probably not be granted all security authorities, and in fact would have to get their access and authorities - from the Administrator.

          •  I disagree. Sysadmins speak in terms of (0+ / 0-)

            access privileges, permissions or Access Control Levels (ACLs). But this is irrelevant because of what he said he had the authority to do. Only an investigator has the legal authority to wiretap someone. Snowden could still be held liable if he wiretapped someone despite whatever SQL permissions or "authorities" he may have had.

            The suggestion that his failure to make that distinction is a matter of semantics is not credible. He's clearly interested in convincing the public that these programs are essentially illegal. Making the distinction between legal and SQL authorities defeats that interest because it indicates that legal safeguards exist where he didn't acknowledge them.

            He's lying.

    •  I should add that the authorization to access (0+ / 0-)

      a database is not the same as the authorization to wiretap anyone. One has the legal authority to wiretap only persons under suspicion only within the context of a legally authorized investigation.

      He could still be held criminally liable if he accessed information he wasn't supposed to even if he had access to a database.

      The most charitable explanation for Snowden's statement that he had "the authorities" to wiretap anyone is that he simply didn't understand what authority he did or didn't have. But it's certainly in his interests to exaggerate or outright lie.

  •  Vyan, two or three comments back at you: (6+ / 0-)

    1) Thank you for a calmly-stated, well-laid-out diary on the topic. Those have been in somewhat short supply.

    2) Thank you for pointing out the sysadmin distinction, and proposing the two-man rule. A good idea that should already have been implemented.

    3) The collection of metadata into databases in order to quickly find connections across persons of interest is probably not a problem for most people. It IS a problem if it becomes a substitute for other good police work, and a guilt-by-association program.

    4) You assume that rules concerning American citizens are followed by American agencies. I see no discussion of the possibility that we are spying on other countries' citizens for them, and they are spying on our citizens for us. Why, for example, did we pay the British spy agency $300 million for work they did for us?

    5) You also seem to assume that minimization policies will keep this system from being abused. My question is, how would we know?

    6) Finally, you do not discuss the collection and storage of content, and the possibility of either error or abuse based on the content itself.

    I am considering jumping into this fray with a diary -- but first I want to thank you for yours. I am not as sanguine as you about the long-term implications of these systems, but perhaps we can continue the discussion -- at least for now.

    Bruce in Louisville
    Visit me at,, or
    Follow me on Twitter @brucewriter or @ThreePols

    by bmaples on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:38:19 AM PDT

  •  You are leaving one extremely important point (6+ / 0-)

    out of your diary... It seems to me that you assume that people involved within this system are acting in good faith; that yes, there are issues we should be concerned about, but those issues have to do with processes, security, etc.

    This system is in the hands of a security apparatus that's working on behalf of the ruling elite.  It is meant to control and subjugate the population, and therefore it is dangerous, undemocratic, and oppressive.

  •  Um, if security & auditing are so lax at NSA (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JesseCW, CroneWit

    Then what's to stop an only somewhat more sophisticated version of the following from taking place, with no one's knowledge in the audit trail:

    DUMP NSA_DB to NSA_DB.db
    Insert drive
    Copy NSA_DB.db to drive
    Remove drive
    Insert drive into another computer outside auditing control
    Copy NSA_DB.db to computer
    Proceed to run whatever queries you like w/o being found out
    This is just one, admittedly very simplistic, way around these alleged controls. No doubt non-DBA/SA back doors could have been built in for higher-ups w/o auditing. A system is only as good as you DESIGN it to be, in part.

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

    by kovie on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 11:54:33 AM PDT

  •  2 people in room (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, Vyan, etherealfire

    During my military service in the early 70's the navy as a CTO ...I had my Cat III clearance dealing crypto with stuff from U2's known then as baker shadow  and baker troop..
    This was at a small NATO base in north eastern mind had already been changed from a previous post sending out Viet Nam sitreps..
    anyway I had recv'd the Time mag where our govt rounded up thousands of D.C. citizens in RFK Stadium as their response to "Days of Rage" my response was to put a small American flag upside down on my window..put my speakers by the other and have my TEAC reel-to-reel play 5 hrs. of Jimi Star-spangled banner...

       For the next month they assigned a second person with me..In one of those irony is the fulcrum of our lives I was jumped and beaten to a degree that I recv'd a medical discharge...
       Did having another person prevent me from doing something i was not going to do in the first place?
    ....and who guess I would turn out like this (from 2006)
    pic of me in my colors..

    "You can't close the door when the wall's caved in."

  •  I don't care, welcome to being a black (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Person in America, always suspected of some wrong doings.

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:08:56 PM PDT

  •  It's all a matter of trust in public officials (6+ / 0-)

    The internet is kind of like a public road.  The traffic cops watching the roads have access to cameras and your personal information (license plate numbers), and they can pull you over and even take you to jail.  They can find out where you live by looking at your driver's license.  A few do abuse their authority, but I don't see anyone claiming that having police is a "violation of constitution", suggesting we do away with them.  

    In a way the NSA is a bit like internet police - they have no real personal information on anyone , but can get it if it is warranted - with proper procedures and protocols they have set up.  Of course this would take "trust", which the public seems to have none of in any government official.  The libertarian anti-government meme is quite strong, even amongst liberals.  

    It's funny how people have no qualms in giving their credit card to an employee at a store, or personal information to a bank or the IRS, or on Facebook, or their own blog.  

    •  Exactly. / (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Anna M

      Further, affiant sayeth not. 53959

      by Gary Norton on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 02:27:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  NSA has much more than your local police (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They have access to all your conversations, email, financial transactions, health information, etc, etc, etc.

      Unlike the police, the're allowed to conduct their surveillance and subterfuge in complete secrecy, with no oversight and no consequences if they engage in wrongdoing.

      Comparing this to policing, where officers are held accountable and courts have transparency, is ridiculous on its face.

      "The international world is wondering what happened to America's great heart and soul." Helen Thomas

      by Betty Pinson on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 02:58:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Capability does not mean intent (0+ / 0-)

        Your local police could quite easily find your house, bust in and plant some drugs, have their TARU detectives access all your computers and personal information, then send you to prison for 10 years.   They could easily do that.   The point is why would they?

        Why do you think the NSA is out to get all this information on you?  What do they plan on doing with it?  Are they building FEMA camps somewhere?  There are about 311 million people in the US, and somewhere around 7 billion in the world.  NSA has maybe 40,000 employees.  Even if they hired a million people or contractors,  it would never be enough to gather all this information on everybody.  And to what end?   Why exactly would they want this information?

        •  Good questions (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Why is NSA gathering all this data on Americans with no links to terrorism?   It hasn't served any useful purpose in preventing terrorist attacks.  

          "The international world is wondering what happened to America's great heart and soul." Helen Thomas

          by Betty Pinson on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 06:00:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  "A few do abuse their authority..." HOLY. FUCK. nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  In my world the admin has all rights (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Onomastic

    he/she is the one that grants things like super user rights.

    But it seems to me that maybe we need to track the trackers. An admin could do any search that they wanted, but there would be a log file of their activity, or at least there should be. So, set up a team who tracks the trackers. Every search by every user should logged and examined by a third party. Make reports that are sent to judges and congress. That way the renegade net admin can't do searches on his ex-girlfriend without some one noticing

    There is a need to track stuff. The CDC uses Google searches to track diseases. We just have to make sure what is being done is ethical.

    “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

    by se portland on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 12:35:37 PM PDT

  •  Yes, the SysAdmin has full control (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama

    Over everything, and can erase any traces of what is done. I like the idea of always having two people there when anything is done. Not that they couldn't collude, but it's at least something, especially if they are chosen at random each time to mix things up.

    Women create the entire labor force.
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 01:41:46 PM PDT

  •  Tipped & Rec'd. (4+ / 0-)

    Thoughtful and interesting diary. I am still concerned about the very nature of these programs, and I have serious concerns that the administration is not being as honest and forthcoming as they need to be.

    I'd love to see serious congressional hearings with officials answering questions under oath. And I think we need to see some type of ability for citizens to end these programs if we want to. I am not at all convinced that they're effective, or a good use of resources, and those issues are separate from my concerns on the civil liberties and privacy fronts.

  •  It's gotten to the point (0+ / 0-)

    that in order to protect your privacy you have to "opt-out" of many modern day devices.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 02:16:43 PM PDT

  •  This data is too VALUABLE (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emal, native

    There is no way to safeguard it properly.  A system this large will need a number of sysadmins and it's nearly impossible to stop them from getting whatever data they want - directly.

    Carlyle Group is one of the companies running the system.  I'm guessing the banks anyone with enough money can get whatever information they need - for a price.  Money will get you access.  

  •  good diary (0+ / 0-)

    That said Snowden still has lied repeatedly

    He claimed to be an analyst, he never was.

    He claimed to have broad access to untold spying ability, much of that came from abusing his position and probably outright hacking to get the meta phone data.

    So no Snowden has lied and because his lies fit into the predisposition of the libertartian mindset of America in general (evil evil government) people will believe those lies.

    In the time that I have been given, I am what I am
    Shop Kos Katalogue
    Der Weg ist das Ziel

    by duhban on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 02:51:30 PM PDT

    •  He said he was a systems administrator (4+ / 0-)

      and apparent he was for Dell, for Booz-Allen he was an Infrastructure Analyst which is not to say he's claimed to be an NSA SIGINT analyst, which are the people who are supposed to be conducting intelligence searches.

      •  Snowden's claim (0+ / 0-)
        any analyst at any time can target anyone … I, sitting at my desk, certainly have the authorities to wiretap anyone — from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President.”
        Has been repeatedly debunked and he has called himself an analyst with the implication and phrasing being that he is an intelligence analyst.

        I still agree with your diary but there is a really good case to be made that Snowden has repeatedly overstated and exaggerated his claims. And especially overstated and exaggerated what he actually was allowed to do and what he did by abusing his position. That to me makes him a liar.

        In the time that I have been given, I am what I am
        Shop Kos Katalogue
        Der Weg ist das Ziel

        by duhban on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 03:25:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  error in diary (0+ / 0-)

    Christopher Walken does not have a blackberry. He doesn't even have a cell phone or a computer. Apparently he's a total Luddite! Heard this recently in an interview.

    Otherwise, thoughtful piece with much to chew on.

    Ultimately, though, I believe the NSA should not exist at all...

    "Today is who you are" - my wife

    by I Lurked For Years on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 03:10:55 PM PDT

  •  One of the best diaries on this issue so far (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We need more fact based analyses like this. I also agree that the rox/sux debate format has blinded us to the fact that in many cases, both sides are factually correct.

    Thank you so much. T&R

  •  I find this diary weird. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lisa Lockwood

    I have a lot of respect for you, Vyan, but as I read and read, and get to the end, I think, here's what I just read:

    Sorry, kind of sleepy. Yeah, so the house is on fire. But it's just the storeroom in the rear of the house. That could be bad, you know, if it spreads...yawwwwwwwwn...but, you know, there's  a fire department down the road, so...damn, need more coffee...where was I?...oh yeah - if the fire gets to the garage, well, let me tell you, those acetalyne tanks are NOT goint to like that, but, heck, there's a brick was between the bedroom and there, I mean there's a door, and windows, but...wait, what was that crash?...

    ...s'all good...yawwwwwwn...

  •  the only thing I can this is very (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    informative but I have  to say this...There was and never should have been a vioation of the 4th and 5th.  For what purpose of the spying under Bush other than the patriot act being Hoover on Steroids.  Was it Kennedy that said a government that is afraid of it's own people ,,,somethin let me see ....yes here it is..

    A NATION that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."

    That was John F Kennedy, the 35th US president, explaining more than half a century ago why it was so important that Americans should have free access to "unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values", even when these made politicians like himself uncomfortable.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 05:37:16 PM PDT

  •  It may be a long time trend but we need to stop it (0+ / 0-)

    Secrecy Has Already Corroded Our Democracy in Real Ways

    This summer, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, an author and longtime champion of the Patriot Act, emerged as one of the most concerned voices arguing that the law is being used to violate the rights of Americans. A letter the Wisconsin Republican sent to Attorney General Eric Holder singles out Section 215, the law's "business records" provision. "As the author of the Patriot Act,"  he wrote, "I am extremely disturbed by what appears to be an overbroad interpretation." He was referring to Edward Snowden's revelation that Team Obama collects data on the phone calls of almost all Americans.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 05:38:28 PM PDT

  •  This is the best and most thorough (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    outline of the real issues and problems with the domestic surveillance systems I've read here or anywhere. It helps that it comes from someone who has had some experience in the field of handling the kind information categories that form such a big part of the story of the surveillance state.

    Whether domestic surveillance should be done at all or whether it should be done differently is another question altogether.

    But the systems have been the subject of intense polemics, propaganda and provocations all along the way. Much heat. Little light.

    One of the aspects of the story that's out there that has really bothered me is the implication that somehow government and contractor systems administrators are all a bunch of corrupt, lawless, incorrigible criminals who will at the drop of a hat find and use any data they want to destroy you or me, and they'll do it just because they can.

    There could hardly be a worse slander of some of the hardest working and most honorable people I ever encountered in government service.

    Alexander's reaction, apparently because Ed Snowden did what he did, is insane, truly. But there you are.

    If someone is going to slam and smear systems administrators the way they have been, even if it is only by implication not accusation, Alexander's reaction is understandable if not acceptable.

    In the meantime, I really appreciate what you have taken the time to write here. For brevity and clarity, it is top notch.


    Blogging as Ché Pasa since 2007.

    by felix19 on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 06:40:11 PM PDT

  •  Pardon me, but I had to question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias, Lisa Lockwood

    your suggestion we address the security problem by leaving private data at the corporate contractor level to prevent government spying.

    You do realize, don't you, that one of our biggest problems with this mess of a program is that we are using private contractors for high level intelligence work. They're part of the problem not the solution. But just for fun please explain how any institution that's 100% driven by the short term profits is something we could trust.
    What kind of priveleged background makes someone think corporations are more trustworthy than government?

    Reality is difficult to accept for some who had so much blind faith in the system, but I encourage them to keep working at it.Our country may be in a horrible mess that will take a long time to fix, but its wort saving.

    We can become a Democracy again, hopefully before the end of the next decade.

    "The international world is wondering what happened to America's great heart and soul." Helen Thomas

    by Betty Pinson on Sat Aug 10, 2013 at 08:56:26 PM PDT

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