So, after the last couple days have seen so much chagrin, consternation, and yes, outrage over the detention of Glenn Greenwald's husband by British authorities, I thought it might be helpful to recap the major items thus far that we're all supposed to be outraged about.
So far, I count roughly four supposed "outrages" that the "revelations" from Glenn Greenwald and/or The Guardian have disclosed, summarized as follows [minus the hypberbole, gross exaggerations, and emotionally-charged, misleading language]:
1. If he or she were willing to break the law, and could skirt all of the administrative, system, and audit/review safeguards, including fooling the computer systems into thinking he or she had authority, a highly-skilled hacker theoretically might be able access systems which could potentially enable them to engage in unauthorized surveillance, but he or she would in all likelihood get caught by the automated alert and audit systems.
2. If the government wants customer data from an ISP, including for national security purposes, it needs to follow the applicable legal process, meaning it must serve a court order for content or a subpoena for specific account information. Such orders and subpoenas must request specific accounts and identifiers -- there is no blanket or indiscriminate access to customer data. There is no direct access or tapping into any ISP servers. Any surveillance of Americans still requires a warrant.
3. A system designed exclusively for surveillance of foreign communications to/from specific foreign targets, and of foreign communications which contain specific information (such as an email address) specifically related to those specific foreign targets, has an infinitesimally small error rate by which, very rarely, errors and mistakes occur which cause inadvertent over-reach, mostly confined to inadvertent continued surveillance of the same original foreign targets when they bring their foreign cellphones into the U.S., or to inadvertent metadata collection on domestic communications, which the NSA is authorized to do anyway. These errors and mistakes which cause over-reach are caught and flagged by automated systems safeguards, and further compiled and documented in regular audits. There is no indication that any of the over-reaches are authorized, permitted, or a matter of policy.
4. Authorities in the UK detained Greenwald's husband, who was traveling to and from two people possessing troves of stolen classified documents for the specific purpose of transporting some of those stolen classified documents, found that he was, in fact, transporting some of the stolen classified documents, seized the documents, and then released him.
Erm . . . yes . . . outrageous.
Which brings me to my question: What will be some of the future "outrages" disclosed by Glenn Greenwald and/or The Guardian?
My prediction is that some of this "outrage" will have something to do with the 2011 FISC ruling, which by all accounts so far apparently found a particular new (at the time) NSA activity to be unConstitutional, and so the activity was stopped. My prediction is that rather than reflect that the Obama administration took the program to the FISC, which found it impermissible, thereby demonstrating that the FISC is indeed a vigorous, effective safeguard the "outrage" report will instead be based on what the program could have hypothetically done, in the worst case scenario, if it had been abused and had all safeguards and oversight failed, and will conflate potential capabilities in a worst-case scenario, with all safeguards and oversight failing, with an actual authorized policy of abuse.
Now, keep in mind, while my track record for calling out gross exaggerations, wildly misleading claims, and utter nonsense remains unblemished on the NSA/Greenwald issues, this is only a prediction, and so while I have no doubt it will be the basis of some story soon, I am not specifically predicting that it will necessarily be the next "outrage" from Greenwald. Whatever that story is, though, you can be sure it will be filled with a lot of scary language and, of course, a lot of outrage.
So guess away, if you want. What scary, Orwellian nightmare awaits in future reports from the Greenwald/Guardian team?