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I get the part about identifying a terrorist suspect, tapping his phone, then the phones of the people those people call - you need to build a network map, identify the members of a cell and follow it up the chain.

I can even understand why the NSA might need to collect 60 million phone calls (metadata, anyway) in Spain in a single month - if there are terrorists of interest operating there, you need  LOT of raw data to query.

But where does Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, fit into this sort of thing?

Are we supposed to believe that she's 'pallin' around with terrorists'?

Are we supposed to worry that she's going to follow the lead of a previous Chancellor of Germany and try to take over the world?

No, nothing as dramatic as that. The reason is much simpler:

Because they could.

They had the technology, and nobody told them not to... simple as that.

It's entirely likely that this surveillance wasn't known about at a very high level - I have to expect that the DNI or NSA Director would have said 'whoa' about this kind of program, and either shut it down or 'passed the buck' upwards to the President.

And, for now, I refuse to believe that President Obama knew about this program - for all his faults, I don't believe he would have bought into this, without some specific demonstrated 'clear and present danger'.

The NSA just spent $1.5 Billion (plus cost over-runs, of course) on a data center in Utah. That was just for the BUILDING, not including the computers, people, etc. How much data can you store in such a facility? Nobody knows for sure, but it's a significant percentage of ALL the data generated in the world every year. (Cue Bill Cosby as Noah.... 'Lord, what's an exobite?)

Why does this matter? Because instead of identifying a target and going out to collect data on him/her, the NSA is sucking in just about everything that could possibly ever be of interest to them, warehousing it, and using this data proactively to build 'digital fingerprints' on everybody.

And when we scream and pull out our hair and rend our garments about their invasions of privacy, do they change anything? No.... well, wait, it looks like they've stopped tapping Angela Merkel's phone - which is something, but for you and me, has anything changed? Hell, no.

I hate to say this, but I'm afraid we've lost this one. With an 'intelligence' budget of somewhere between $50 and $100 Billion a year, and with the President and DiFi not knowing what they're doing, what's to stop them from doing anything they want?

What do we really think they're doing with all that money? Playing Spy vs. Spy?

Seriously, there may be as many as 1,000 real terrorists around the world who are worthy of the effort necessary to track their every move. So we're spending $50 million apiece every year to try to keep track of each of them?

The real problem is that this massive store of data on just about everyone is sitting there, waiting to be abused.

What could possibly go wrong?

Cheers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain. Friedrich Schiller

    by databob on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 06:07:15 PM PDT

  •  I assure you the Spying was know at the highest... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doc2, citizenx, doroma, micsimov, Dreidlgirl

    All countries spy on each other. The outrage is purely political.

    A mind like a book, has to be open to function properly.

    by falconer520 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 06:09:51 PM PDT

  •  Why not? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doroma, Calamity Jean

    Anyone who doesn't like a free backrub, even from a creepy guy, is hiding something as far as I'm concerned.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 06:19:45 PM PDT

  •  asdf (3+ / 0-)

    unless the purpose of spying is to promote American big business interests?? eg GE vs Siemens

    Progressives keep their $ in credit unions, not big banks....find one now: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cu/19990526c.asp

    by grrr on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 06:21:08 PM PDT

  •  I am told on TV by the learned talking heads that (0+ / 0-)

    it is custom to spy on foe and friend and everyone does it to us too.  So your see there is no riyme or reason here just yes we can and your can too.  Happy spying all round.

  •  Fighting terrorists is just the excuse. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, grrr, Sandino, stevemb

    The real motive is to maximize power.

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 06:31:45 PM PDT

  •  Leverage. You Never Know What You'll Hear That (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nchristine, grrr, viral

    you might be able to use for pressure at some future time and unpredictable situation.

    Same reason for spying on all citizens who are elected reps or are leaders or activists or have leadership potential.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 06:34:14 PM PDT

  •  Corporate Espionage (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nchristine, corvo, citizenx, grrr, Sandino, lysias

    Many many words have been spilled on this website about how closely our government works with big business.  To many our government fits the definition of fascism: government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.  

    So put the two together.   If our government seemingly functions to support corporations and big business... how could its national security apparatus be used to support big business.  And this is the answer.  

    There is no terrorism justification for eavesdropping on Merkel.  But there is a profit motive.  Germany has some of the best engineering firms on the planet.  For being a small country, they have A LOT of bug businesses there.    So, what better target for our corporate overlords?  

    It has been hinted at multiple times that corporate espionage was a part of the surveillance.  Not just national security.  While no, there has not been that blockbuster news release yet, are we not moving in that path?  

    At first the revelations were just confirmations of things we already suspected.   That everything was being soaked up and analyzed.  Then it came out that things were being recorded.  At first just a little bit was recorded, and then it turns out that everything is recorded.  And at first it was just targeted recording and analysis, then it came out that EVERYBODY was being recorded.   Then was released the internal reports about just how ineffective recording everything was.   Then it came out that not only were americans recorded but then anybody who's calls were routed through the US.   Then that expanded out to be people in other countries as well, even if it their calls were not routed through the US.    And now it comes out that it wasnt just that everybody in a given country was recorded but then it was specific people.  Specifically heads of state.    

    So now we know that MOST calls, all over the world, are recorded and analyzed.  And that specific people are targeted for more thorough analysis.    And not just terrorists either, but heads of state and captains of business.  

    What has come out are specifics on WHO is being recorded.   But WHAT is being done with that data?  We know some of it is used for law enforcement purposes.  But what else?  

    I would bet money that some of the upcoming releases will indicate that the use of this data bleeds outside of the national security realm and is shared with others as well specifically to gain corporate advantage, particularly in the stockmarket.  

  •  Find out how badly they were planning (0+ / 0-)

    on fucking Greece over and other continental economic extortion plans.

    Sometimes you don't need an army to take over Europe, a country learns these things eventually after a couple of lessons.

  •  The NSA was/is hiding behind (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino

    the idea that they were simply "spying on everyone." Obviously they were not interested in spying on you and I...we were just their cover.

    All they needed was the right numbers that "everyone" could not provide them:
    http://www.techdirt.com/...

    World leaders probably number less than 2 dozen. The rolodexes in question would have allowed them to tap the cell phones of any and all movers and shakers in this country. If they got a number through some idiot's rolodex why on earth would they NOT put a tap on it? It was a gift! And they'd be ungracious not to use them.

    Which makes this ponderance all the scarier:
    https://www.aclu.org/...

    Personally, I think the aclu is under-reacting.

  •  They were hoping... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    micsimov, Shahryar

    ...to obtain the secret egg salad recipe.  

    I'm not always political, but when I am I vote Democratic. Stay Democratic, my friends. -The Most Interesting Man in the World

    by boran2 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 07:30:08 PM PDT

  •  If you bought the world's best vacuum.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, Calamity Jean

    one that could suck up all data, wouldn't you use it to suck up all data?

    This shit ends with pulling the plug on the funding and firing all the spooks. Let's do it.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 07:33:52 PM PDT

  •  That truly is their job description (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wednesday Bizzare

    Angela Merkel falls under the definition of a "foreign power," so the NSA is doing its job -- and doing it well, by the looks of things.

    Objecting to the job description of foreign-intelligence agencies is one thing, but pretending that the job description is different from it is -- that's another thing altogether. It never has just been about terrorists and other unsavory characters.

    Even if the U.S. had 100% pure motives (which I'm not naive enough to believe), they'd still probably spy on Merkel to ensure that she isn't knowingly (even if only as a result of blackmail) or unwittingly about to get involved in some misadventure, that a chain of terrible events isn't going to happen that could affect the United States or be unjustly pinned on the United States, or any number of ostensibly legitimate reasons.

    I believe most of the official outrage about this revelation is merely for public consumption. It's unfortunate that Obama had to do his "if I want to know what Chancellor Merkel is thinking" thing, which is now embarrassing, but if these foreign countries truly were pissed off at the U.S. in more than a wink-wink manner (while knowing that they themselves spy or try to spy on the U.S.), they'd take a hard stance and dispense with the kabuki. But they probably know that the U.S. could, if it wanted to show less restraint, disclose these foreign powers' intelligence actions against the States and make them seem like big hypocrites.

  •  Cost-Plus contracts (0+ / 0-)

    Gov't contractors get paid for the volume of work, plus a fixed margin on top of that.  The more they gather the more they get paid.

  •  It isn't possible to isolate/segregate a target (0+ / 0-)

    without affecting the whole population.

  •  penetration testing? (0+ / 0-)

    This is a little bit along the lines of "because they can".

    Basically you want to find out two things:
    1) What a skilled adversary can learn or do?
    2) what are they learning by doing it?

    So you hack their system and find out what is more or less openly available to a skilled adversary. You characterize it and if it is a serious leak (Merkel's personal cell phone certainly is) you try do to something about it. It would not surprise me that the Germans were told of the insecurity through intelligence channels some time ago, and refused to do anything about it. Hence the monitoring continued - simply to know what was being leaked through an insecure practice.

    It's also not surprising that details of methods were not sent back up to our elected leadership as intelligence is usually "sanitized" to avoid compromising sources.

  •  The Fact is (0+ / 0-)

    Bush-Cheney began spying on Merkel 10 years ago.  I bet it is the fact she was an East German Commie in her younger days.

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