Journalism in the Public Interest

What NSA Transparency Looks Like

Disclosures by the spy agency about violations of privacy rules have been almost entirely redacted.

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Sep. 5, 2013, 3:28 p.m.

I believe that anybody who has ever served in elected or appointed office or has served in the military of the United States of America and so has some familiarity with the Uniform Code of Military Justice has had any illusions about the ability of “the law” to protect America’s citizens swept away by the long list of violations of the Geneva Conventions committed by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, & PNAC, LLP.

Frankly you have to be an egomaniac to believe that you will be protected - if not by law, then by the weight of public opinion - from the actions of politicians who do not represent the majority of the American people (or, in the case of members of Congress, even the majority of their constituents) given the fact that the Republicans (both Executive Branch and Congressional) have already demonstrated (by both lying America into war and violating the Geneva Conventions) that they not only don’t care about the opinions, desires, and rights of the American people, they don’t give a damn about the opinions, desires, and rights of all of the peoples of every single nation on planet Earth.

And face it:  the right has made “super citizens” out of the pieces of paper that are corporations just to ensure that their “voice” can shout yours down.


Sep. 5, 2013, 3:01 p.m.


The only “wall” between an American citizen - between a citizen of any nation - and Gitmo is a mere decision…is whether or not someone decides to label that individual with something like “enemy combatant” or accuse that individual of funding/supporting/being a member of a “terrorist group” or committing a “terrorist act”.

The practical effect is that anybody who is contemplating responding to a charity’s solicitation for donations better check to see if anyone has ever accused that charity of supporting/sustaining/abetting terrorism.

Matter of fact, you better check to ensure that none of your friends/relatives/business partners have ended up on the “no-fly” list:

Unless you’re a part of the 0.01% who own America’s politicians, you’re not immune from the consequences of decisions made by not just elected officials and their appointees but of bureaucrats way down in the chain:

There is an American woman by the name of Valerie Plame that can attest to the fact that corrupt politicians think nothing of violating not only the rights of American citizens but their futures working in America’s own security apparatus.

America’s laws will not protect the 99.99% from the actions of those politicians who are owned by the 0.01%.


Sep. 5, 2013, 12:10 p.m.

@ibsteve- I think you point is alarming, actually. Nixon stepped over the line and actually misused other government institutions for his own nefarious goals. Since then, we have instituted many checks and balances between the three branches of government.

From my experience, you have flipped the real dangers of living in the US on it’s head. There is no question that the last administration cherry-picked the intel and rushed to implement national security protections that got ahead of the laws, but to morph these mistakes into a threat to innocent citizens is plain nonsense.

I say you have flipped the dangers on their head because you are far more likely to have your civil rights violated by your local police than the FBI or NSA. I see stories almost every day in my area of police behavior from breaking down the door to a house NEXT DOOR to the one they had the warrant to enter or excessive force or killing the wrong suspect or corruption of every kind.

Right now, the oligarchs are funding a big drive for smaller government and states’ rights. That means more discrimination against minorities and disenfranchisement of minority voting rights. Look at how fast the very states that had been controlled by the VRA, responded to the SCOTUS’s striking down Section 4. No, racism is not dead in America. It is very much with us and we need to remain vigilant to prevent a return to the horrors of the 1960’s.

Gitmo is bad, but what is the solution? We can’t successfully prosecute many of those detainees and we certainly can’t release them back home. History has shown that many return to terrorism.

You said, “the only thing that prevents you from becoming the target of an “Executive Order” is the quality of the American you put into the White House.” You have absolutely no evidence that a president with either party would target an innocent American or a political enemy. That’s paranoid IMHO.

Go over to crackle dot com and watch Samuel L. Jackson in Unthinkable. I won’t spoil it for you. Come back and tell me that Bush made the wrong choices when he was confronted with immediate and additional terrorist attacks a dozen years ago. You might be surprised how you analysis will change based upon real life events.

Ou government wasn’t suborned under Bush/Cheney. It was simply manipulated by masterful propaganda. We need to guard against that which the internet allows. We are not dependent on network news for our information anymore. We have far more choices and that’s good.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Sep. 5, 2013, 6:56 a.m.

Very good points, steve.


Sep. 4, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

It still comes down to who you put into public office.

If you don’t think before you vote, you wind up with people in Congress and/or the White House who will deliberately misinterpret the law/intelligence gathered in order to justify invasions that kill thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of the citizens of other nations.

The point being that no American is safe - regardless of the Constitution and Bill of Rights - if we put people who are not trustworthy into the White House/Congress/the State House/the Governor’s Mansion…and we all become especially unsafe/specifically threatened if the people we elect are both corrupt and sadistic.

Every American should be aware that they could be force-fitted with the shoes of somebody who has been/will be the target of “extraordinary rendition” and subsequent transfer without trial to a facility such as Gitmo…there to face perpetual incarceration.

Put another way, the only thing that prevents you from becoming the target of an “Executive Order” is the quality of the American you put into the White House.  Vote for those who only represent the 0.01% at your own risk (unless, of course, you are the 0.01%).

Laws don’t matter if the government is suborned; I give you Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Yoo, & PNAC, LLP…


Sep. 4, 2013, 12:02 p.m.

@johnhenry- none of your references point to any wrongdoing. That’s my point. You can huff and you can puff, but all of Snowden’s men can’t show even one scintilla of evidence of government behavior that rises to even Snowden’s level of law breaking.

And, I just checked again. Yep, the FAA and the PA are still the law and Constitutional. No changes on that front. Why would there be? Just complaining without offering real ideas is childish. I would expect a lot more from the conspiracy crowd.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Sep. 3, 2013, 6:34 p.m.

hal, it has already been explained to you with refrences, if you don’t want to see it, just relax, the government will take care of you.


Sep. 3, 2013, 1:54 p.m.

Irrespective of whatever Hitler did, there is absolutely no evidence of any government wrongdoing with the NSA’s surveillance programs here in the US. Now, you can go on hoping to find this and I would encourage you to do just that, but until and unless you have proof, all you have is unwarranted fear and hyperbole.

You need to study our history. We prosecute government employees who break the law, hence Snowden has been charged with espionage. I don’t need to make this up. It’s real.

Give me one scintilla of any evidence of government wrongdoing that you have uncovered in the last few weeks? Anything? Please?

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Sep. 3, 2013, 1:38 p.m.

@johnhenry- Conspiracy theories aside, none of that changes the fact that the NSA surveillance is legal and Constitutional. It has been passed into law and reauthorized 34 times. Until and unless you can come up with evidence of government wrongdoing, this will not change.

hal, everything Hitler did to his subjects was also legal. Study a little history and you will discover where this country might be headed.































































































































































































@johnhenry- Conspiracy theories aside, none of that changes the fact that the NSA surveillance is legal and Constitutional. It has been passed into law and reauthorized 34 times. Until and unless you can come up with evidence of government wrongdoing, this will not change.

If you perceive that your public footprint exposes you to unwanted attention, you know what you can do. Just hush up and do it.


Everything Hitler did to his subjects was legal as well…study a little history and you will discover what is in store for us as a nation.


Sep. 3, 2013, 1:16 p.m.

1. The NSA does not do domestic. All of those who suggest that are willfully ignorant. Read the targeting and minimization procedures. DUH!

2. The FBI handles domestic surveillance if and when a target is discovered to be either an American citizen or a foreigner in the US (most common). They always use a warrant just like they have done for hundreds of years. If you believe you are being watched by the government, it will be the FBI and not the NSA. Another DUH!

3. Abuses by public employees does happen and are very rare. We can and have prosecuted those who break the law.

4. Despite all the misinformation being bandied about, there is no evidence of the widespread government wrongdoing Snowden and Greenwald promised. None. Just smoke to promote their upcoming movie and books and help GG pay his debt to the IRS.

Lars Pardo

Sep. 3, 2013, 2:21 a.m.

‘if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear’
  - Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister

anyone who paraphrases Nazis for the defense of their views, condemns themselves to the wrong side of History



Sep. 2, 2013, 11:18 p.m.

Why would anyone fear the NSA’s surveillance if they are NOT communicating with a known terrorist? It just shows how uninformed critics are. The NSA has no idea what or who is on the other end of that contact. They don’t need to. If they identify a valid target and have to hand it off to the FBI under warrant, the legal surveillance is like all the other surveillance the FBI has been doing for hundreds of years.

If you are caught up in a criminal prosecution, it has come from your contact with a terrorist. You may be swept up inadvertently, but you will be cleared and any information destroyed. Any other hypothetical is simply out of the realm of the law.

Read the targeting and minimization procedures. I doubt it will change the minds of those who remain willfully ignorant. They’re just going to hate the government regardless of the evidence, period. By the way, government officials can rip you a new one without these surveillance programs. Hell, the IRS has far more damaging PERSONAL information than the NSA has. DUH! Of course, the government agent would have to break the law as Snowden did, but hey who cares if you want to prove a point.

Finally, the notion that the NSA is somehow trying to monetize surveillance is pure poppycock.


Sep. 2, 2013, 10:06 p.m.

Hey, maybe that’s it…instead of the NSA saying they’re collecting information with the aim of preventing future terrorist attacks and holding the individuals, groups, and nations who commit or aid and abet such attacks accountable, the NSA should say they’re merely “attempting to monetize Big Data”.


Sep. 2, 2013, 9:55 p.m.

Did ya ever wonder if the reason folks don’t get upset over the data trawling activities of this nation’s social media and telecommunications corporations - which is much, much more pervasive and exhaustive than “the government’s” - is ‘cuz those corporations are unlikely to initiate criminal prosecutions when they find evidence of a crime being committed by a peer corporation/executive suite or the market makers, shakers, and bakers of their own shares?

Lars Pardo

Aug. 31, 2013, 6:08 p.m.


I don’t need to prove anything that I have written. Read the NSA files & keep up w/US/UK gov’t reactions to Snowden

- if you believe France & Austria have such a beef w/Bolivia that they would flaunt international law w/o fear of being censored by the world community, then your geo-politcial views are seriously flawed. The UnitedStates has been the one country that has repeatedly demonstrated its demands on the world community.

- common sense is not ‘pacifism’

- yes, our ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to the bogeyman of “terrorism” has fundamental problems.

: our reaction to ‘terrorism’ is predictable and by being predictable (eg invade another country, send a drone in, gather more communication, a profile every citizen, borrow more money…..) we leave ourselves to be manipulated
.......either by domestic enemies,
.......those w/a financial stake,
.......or a foreign nation/organisation

:  our ‘knee-jerk’ reaction also means that any economic benefits of the past 10+yrs has eluded us
(despite your market conclusions of what a 15 000 DJIA means)
........development contracts for Afghan copper has gone to China
........development contracts for Iraqi oil has gone to China

If China can predict how the US will react over a particular (“terrorist”) incident,
do you not think it likely they will attempt to create such an event (if they can keep their footprint light)?

This is not very difficult for a nation to do especially one with the cultural and historical experience, resources & quite frankly, disdain, that China has for the US generally.

I would argue that we are setting ourselves up for collective suicide

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 31, 2013, 9:55 a.m.

Read this and tell me you want to defending yourself in court under these circumstances for any charge.


Aug. 31, 2013, 12:13 a.m.

@johnhenry- You are very mistaken. You say, “So other countries are begining to see our actions as unwarranted against them.” These are out allies in many cases. We share information. If you believe what you read in the media, that Germany is pissed, for example, your are a fool. This is all for show. Don’t be so naive.

There were 53 terrorist attacks thwarted and 12 in the US. It has been documented by those who know. It’s not speculation. Those are facts.

“Is this the kind of due process of law you are willing to accept?”
FYI, foreign terrorists aren’t entitled to due process here in the US. The Constitution only applies to our citizens. Comprende?

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 30, 2013, 11:45 p.m.

hal, sadly you are right. The government will not stop spying on it’s own citizens and the rest of the world. So other countries are begining to see our actions as unwarranted against them. Even our allies are not thrilled at the fact that we spy on their communications. I’ve heard from one foiled attact to fifty in the news and I have no clue at the real number because I don’t think anyone knows. So we have spent billions and are using the information to direct investigations in criminal cases from inception. So the true agenda is revealed. The “informant” is the spy agencies that pass along data to investigative agencies that pass the data into criminal cases. This is reported to be unlawful by the courts.

So, in essence, the use of the information in the due process of law gets to the point of unlawful. Everyone has the right to face their accuser in court. Agents of the government have been instructed on how to reconstruct cases to give the appearance of legal evidence presented. When in fact it is nothing more than lies and deceit.

Is this the kind of due process of law you are willing to accept?


Aug. 30, 2013, 10:23 p.m.

@johnhenry- Conspiracy theories aside, none of that changes the fact that the NSA surveillance is legal and Constitutional. It has been passed into law and reauthorized 34 times. Until and unless you can come up with evidence of government wrongdoing, this will not change.

If you perceive that your public footprint exposes you to unwanted attention, you know what you can do. Just hush up and do it.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 30, 2013, 8:59 p.m.

hal, I did not fail to plan. I do have retirement. Also a great amount of equity in real estate. My retirement plan is much more secure than say, my mother’s that has lost a lot of value within the last year, simply because of the type plans she has. The economy is in a monopoly money bubble. It will soon burst. Then all of our retirement and dollars will be worthless. Hope you have a good skill you can barter with. I do. Several.

So, now I am a failure?

Blow harder, you still did not dampen my candle.


Aug. 30, 2013, 8:38 p.m.

@johnhenry- you said, “I’m certainly glad I don’t have anything in any 401ks or an IRA anymore” and “maybe I should be comforted, but somehow, I’m not.”
Therein lies your problem. You failed to plan and now you have been left behind in retirement. Don’t blame the government that you chose this path. It was all your doing.

I do agree with you, when you said, “There is nothing I can present here that will convince you”. Convince me to follow a failure like you? No, thanks. I am retired and I had a nice nest egg thanks to planning. By not putting anything into 401Ks and IRAs, you have left yourself short of your own expectations.

All of this has absolutely nothing to do with our national security apparatus. Noting.

Misinformed? I think not. You are the one who continues to make unsupported charges about what you perceive as government lies or wrongdoing or whatever. None has any basis in fact. Lots of phony allegations and mischaracterizations and a failure to accept that while you may not like how the NSA uses electronic surveillance, it is the law of the land. If you can’t even admit where the law and the Constitution is, it becomes impossible to debate these important issues.

I take full responsibility for my beliefs. They are based upon the best information available. I am not easily swayed by rumor, innuendo, and distortions. I take the issue of national security very seriously. I don’t see how we could possibly dismantle our national security protections with no replacement. That is just idiotic.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 30, 2013, 8:19 p.m.

hal, have you been to the grocery store lately? I don’t know about you, but my money does not buy as much there as 5 years ago. Same goes for the fuel pumps. I’m seeing many items we need to live on day to day go up. Plus taxes. So I’m all warm and fuzzy inside that Wall Street is doing great! Makes me feel like a great American! I’m certainly glad I don’t have anything in any 401ks or an IRA anymore, and of that I am serious. I do have retirement, but it is not in either form. Half the jobs where someone was hired in the last four years is part time. Kelly temp services is the #2 employer in our nation. Yeah, sounds like a real recovery, but not for the average working stiff.

If you think that the surveilance state that is being put in place is all for our safety, you are not looking into world history for any answers.

hal, just be comforted, the president said no one is reading your e-mails. Or maybe I should be comforted, but somehow, I’m not.

There is nothing I can present here that will convince you. If you do not want to see the forrest, I know the trees blur your vision. If you cannot understand that our rights are being nibbled away piecemeal, I cannot convince you. Nor can anyone here think for you, I do hope that more people will begin to understand what is happening to this nation. You certainly are intelligent, or you would not be on this site. I do wonder if you are only misinformed.

I will not insult you, as it is for no gain, blowing your candle out does not make mine shine brighter.

I’m of the opinion, what difference does it make if it is a right boot or a left boot on your neck?


Aug. 30, 2013, 4:49 p.m.

@johnnenry- Anyone can make up a story. Snowden and Greewald lied when they stated that any NSA analyst could listen to anyone’s phone calls or read their email. The Guardian retracted that story because they learned it was untrue. We have learned that Snowden was a System Analyst with a unique set of circumstances enabling him to steal state secrets. He impersonated high ranking officials to gain access to things way beyond his pay grade. To suggest any NSA employee could get that access is pure hyperbole, but Snowden and Greenwald needed that fallacy to make a case for their naive and childish view of how the World works.

When the started massaging the truth to turn actual facts on their head, they lost me and many others. You don’t need to twist the truth to make your point. You simply need to follow the truth and if it does not lead to where you expect. Accept that. Snowden, much to his dismay, has now discovered he wasted his life for nothing. He had a narrative like Assange and Greenwald that the government was bad and tried to find evidence of that. He failed.

The anti-government crowd continues to rely on false “facts” that have been repeatedly debunked by all sorts of fact checks. You mention some here. Why don’t you just go all in and say you were taken hostage and tortured or some other such nonsense? It would make about as much sense as the BS you continue to believe.

“Run our economy into the ground”???? Corporate profits are near record highs. The stock markets are near record highs while the rest of the World sinks into more recession. What do you base this observation on? Did Snowden tell you our economy was failing? He has been wrong many times before, you know.

On what course? What are you smoking? We are a representative Republic and one of the freest nations on Earth. Are you an American citizen or just jealous of those facts?

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 30, 2013, 2:17 p.m.

@hal, lars cannot prove anything anymore than you can prove the all the spying uncovered 12 plots of terror. Seems like you believe everything the propoganda arm of our government releases. We are keyboard commandos, all of us, with the exception being John, as he has produced reasonable information of value.

Think for yourself. Clapper and Alexander lied before congress. Snowden told the truth. Snowden also put a human face on the whole idea of overuse of technical means of prying into our lives. Most of the information released so far has already been leaked and admitted to in small increments by our government. Now, since the government has no idea what or how much data Snowden has placed in other people’s hands, the government HAS to own up to the underhanded, sneaky data mining that has been going on.

Snowden has shown tremendous courage in what he has done. His life has been transformed from peace and security to one where he will never be able to live without looking over his shoulder. He has show us that the emporer has no clothes.

Our country is becoming something I do not want. Nor is it something you want.

There are no simple soulutions, but there are intelligent choices. We do not need to be using drones of terror in other countries where we have no real business. We are recruiting more terrorists by using a terror tactic. If a country wants to live under Sharia law of Islam, let them, and leave them alone. Everyone does not want to be like us. If we stand by and allow our government to conduct war anywhere it wants, and declares the whole world a battlefield, including our own land how long do you think it will be before we see drone strikes in our own country? If the government can cart us away under NDAA laws, they need a reasonable expectation to themselves they are getting the right “combatants”. Therein lies the problem with the NSA and all the other alphabet agencies’ data mining.

If you are waiting for the government to keep you safe, good luck to you. You are going to need it. I am a Chrisitan, there is very little room in the true Christian’s heart for hate or fear. I will not, however, ceed my rights to live free, just because someone in our government thinks they know what it takes better than I do to keep me “secure”. I lay down at night and sleep with my front door unlocked. I feel very secure and unafraid. My government is not keeping my security for me. Of course, I do live in a rural area with plenty of yard dogs roaming around.

@hal, do you think that the terrorist could see into our future and know that their actions would cause us to run our economy into the ground spending to keep us “safe”? Do you think the answer to our security internally is funding people in other countries with weapons and whatever they need to overthrow their governments?

No I do not want to be an isolationist. Keep relations and trade throughout the world. But harm none in the process. Inluding ourselves.

Or, we can continue on our present day course, and we will become another empire that fell under the idea that we can exert our influence in the known world by the sword, and turn against our own citizens as well.


Aug. 30, 2013, 11:44 a.m.

@lars- Do you have any proof that the US, not a European country like Austria, ordered Morales’ plane down? You do realize that some 40 nations share intel on terrorism since 9/11, don’t you? All of them are protective of illegal breaches to their collective security.

Do you know that your are millions of times more likely to be killed by a foreign terrorist than to witness an unassisted triple play while attending a Major League Baseball game? 3000 people died on 9/11. That wasn’t some government conspiracy. The NSA has stopped a dozen attacks since then. Those are facts. That’s way too much risk to ignore because of some perceived notion some fools have that we are going to return to pre-9/11 security measures. That’s not going to happen.

We have not had the “knee jerk” reaction you say. 9/11 cost more than 3.3 trillion dollars and I do not know anyone who reasonably thinks we should just turn the other cheek. That would be suicidal. That would be allowing terrorism to win. If you want this, well you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

AQ cannot win unless we allow pacifists like you to unwind our best chance to find and stop future terrorist attacks. Terrorism is with us for the rest of time. It is poor man’s war. We must contain it or suffer the consequences.

Go ahead and offer constructive criticism. Offer ways to improve our surveillance. Do you know why you can’t? Because datamining is the perfect tool to disrupt terrorism without using personal information and that’s a fact. It is doing a magnificent job. Those who are unaware of what the technology can do continue to repeat, ad nauseam, lies and half truths to undermine reality, but in the end we will prevail.

Jhon Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 30, 2013, 7:43 a.m.

If this surveilance state mentality is not reined in, we are finished as a nation. There must be some kind of control, and that would be within the court system as it is supposed to work. Evidence is brought before a magistrate and presented, he issues a warrant to search and or seize based on the evidence presented. Simple. Protects both the case before it legally and it protects the person.

A dragnet of total fishing for evidence is not what is prescribed for in the constitution, since the British did it to the people here before the revolution, it means exactly that actions taken by our alphabet agencies against us is not legal. You can disect it anyway you want by court rulings and laws passed since, but at the end of the day, those laws are all subjected to the Constitution, as are those that affirmed to allegiance to it.

We have been obscessed with the saftey from terrorist, and it has cost us more than money.

Lars Pardo

Aug. 30, 2013, 3:17 a.m.

- Last month Morales’ airplane was forced to land in Vienna after it was denied permission to fly over France. When it landed it was searched by police looking for Snowden. US gov’t pressure was behind the French & Austrian actions. It created an uproar in SoAmerica - you’d have to have been in a cave not to have heard. Imagine AirForce1 being forced down in a foreign country & searched????

Because the US can run roughshod over international law, or use its proxies, does not make it right any more than classifying illegal activity makes it legal.

- ‘Parallel construction’ corrupts our judicial system by hiding evidence & the source of that evidence.

- breaking the law?? lying to Congress is a felony - I don’t see Clapper in handcuffs - & we haven’t begun talking about the Constitution

- are you seriously suggesting that the NSA, which confused DC & Egypt’s area codes (202 & 20) did not tap into the phone lines of our politicians?

- the gov’t which has reimbursed millions to Google/MS/Yahoo etc etc for the expense of tapping our emails/communication, has paid an additional $270M to companies. Pressure on the gov’t begins w/pressure on these companies & that can be applied thru organisations such as Calpers

- after LOVEINT came out, is it not extremely likely that of the 107 000 intel personnel + 22 000 contractors, that some have gamed the system by checking the stability/profitability of their “investment portfolios” or future plans?

- and here’s a little statistic for you - did you know that in the US you are 7 times more likely to be killed by the police than by a “terrorist”?!

that is absurd.
Our knee jerk reaction to all things “terrorist” have allowed the State to strip us at the airports & wage never-ending wars that are creating more enemies & rapidly bankrupting the Nation.

Al-Qaeda is winning - by our foolishness


Aug. 29, 2013, 9:51 p.m.

@lars- You don’t happen to have any evidence of the hyperbole you posted do you?

“The US forced down and airplane”.  Where and when, lars?

Government oversight is required by law. Food for thought, since the NSA surveillance uses only non-person numbers, who, other than God, could possibly avoid “inadvertent” incidents? Read the target and minimizaton procedures if that one got by you.

The DEA/SOD scandal? Hmm, parallel investigation? Sharing intel? If laws were broken, prosecute those that violate the law. How does this taint the national security efforts of our military intelligence? It doesn’t. You might find in time that the reason the NSA handed over intel of a foreign terrorist contact that happened to be involved in drugs is that they were funneling money to AQ. I know, sometimes facts screw up your whole reason for complaining.

Keep you eye on the courts and Congress. In the end, there will be minimal window dressing. Those who want to destroy our best chance to disrupt terrorist attacks, have no justification. You can get in line, file a lawsuit, and hope the courts will overturn 34 years of case law. I’ll enjoy watching. Good luck.

Mike W

Aug. 29, 2013, 3:34 p.m.

All the sophisticated arguments above are fine, but as I recently put it to a friend using the “if you have nothing to hide…” argument: everyone has something they would like to keep secret, so we are all blackmail-able. And if the ‘powers above’ want to blackmail us about ANYTHING, this monitoring makes it possible. J Edgar Hoover all over again, minus the ballerina outfit. Need I say more?

Lars Pardo

Aug. 29, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

jesus - reading the words from that NSA apologist SeattleGuy i’m embarrassed to admit i’m from seattle
Personally I’ve learned:
- the US can force any airplane down including the one carrying the president of Bolivia
- ‘you have nothing to fear if you have done nothing wrong’ spoken I believe by Joesph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister but debunked by revelations that NSA eavesdrops on salacious gossip (dating back to at least 2006 judging from this ABC article of the NSA tapping into phones of servicemen calling home
- gov’t oversight does not work.
Reggie Walton, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), wrote: “The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of non-compliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing (government) compliance with its orders.”
- “parallel construction” undermines our judicial system
(reverse engineering a legal case to cover up evidence)
- tech companies get reimbursed millions from the gov’t for spying on us despite repeated denials by those same tech companies
- terrorism laws are used as fishing expeditions (schedule7)

do I really have to go on?????????????
we haven’t even touched on Prism or Tempora

If you want to fight it - a good start is Calpers - the $237Biliion Ca.pension fund - because obviously our gov’t is unresponsive to our collective outrage. But then an organised boycott would be considered economic terrorism, would it?

What gives me hope is that there remain people of conscious in this country who value ethics above financial gain; witness LavaBit, Groklaw, SilentCircle


Aug. 28, 2013, 1:28 p.m.

Note:  By now it should be obvious to all Americans that the Republicans are far, far more likely to use intelligence gathered by the NSA against the American people - particularly if the data captured indicates that you are a practitioner of something the Republicans do not like/you are not a practitioner of something the Republicans like.  And the Republicans are far, far more likely to use intelligence gathered by the NSA for monetary or political profit.

I.e., it is “the right” that goes ballistic about sexual orientation, religion believed in/not believed in, progressive taxation, progressives in general, people who protest the contamination of the Earth by the right’s funding sources, etc. etc. etc.  It is “the right” that outs covert CIA agents lest their spouse reveal the extent to which “the right” lies.

The Democrats and “middle America” pretty much adhere to “If you’re not hurting anybody else, then go for it - but don’t bug me if I don’t watch.”

The Republicans only pay lip service (non-erotically speaking) to individual liberty.


Aug. 28, 2013, 1:15 p.m.


If you’re truly worried about how that intelligence will be used - that is, if you’re worried that the intelligence will be used for something other than enforcing the law/protecting America - then stop voting for Republicans.


Aug. 28, 2013, 11:09 a.m.

Way to take me out of context, Steve.  You’re the one who accused me of shilling for some shadowy corporation for supporting privacy.  You’re the one claiming that the military has whatever rights it wants to stop imaginary brown people from blowing up out sacred banks.

That, in case you’re functionally illiterate, was my interpretation of your statement, as should be obvious by it contradicting everything else I’ve said.

But sure, blame the other side.  Ignore the evidence of abuse and the voting records that show who supports what.  Dismiss it all as irrelevant or old news.  Ask where people were when the issue was first raised, because you were ignorant of the issues at the time and assume everybody in the world must have been.  Assume that anybody who disagrees with you is just a selfish, self-entitled jerk.

In other words, use the exact tactics you accuse the Republicans of using, and you’ll probably get the same results:  Wondering why everybody thinks you’re incapable of functioning in the modern world and laughs whenever you open your mouth.

But to the one possibly-not-inane point that you do raise, even assuming there’s no abuse (all evidence to the contrary), the computer doesn’t forget.  If, in ten years, someone wants to come after you for speaking out on the wrong issue, there’s a recorded history to draw from.

It’ll probably be OK, though.  It’s not like any politician or military officer has ever been inclined to smear or harass his opponents to marginalize them.  It’s not like anybody in power has ever seen fit to abuse their power to control someone.  And I’m sure the NSA purges every copy of data, since hard drive space is so expensive, these days.  So, sure, it’s fine.

Until it’s not.  Then you’ll wonder why all these so-called patriots didn’t fight for their rights.  You know, exactly like you’re doing with the Patriot Act, when a lot of us were ignored a decade ago as unwilling to compromise on critical issues like national security…


Aug. 27, 2013, 9:11 p.m.

Re:  “Of course, Steve, the only person who might value privacy must be a criminal.

Yours is a fallacious argument, for the truth is “Some of those who value privacy are criminals…and even terrorists.”

Even those who “doth protest too much” should be able to comprehend the fact that a computer/software program is incapable of making moral judgements…if you’re doing something you don’t want made public but whatever you’re doing does not fall within the computer’s/software’s criteria - its pass/fail test - then the computer/software simply does nothing.

Nothing, nothing, nothing

Computers/software will not email the details of what you’ve done or are doing to hell and gone like a Snowden will…they will not make an “inside” joke out of your behavior…they will not sit on your behavior until your campaign for political office begins and then plaster it in headlines all over America and the world…

lollll…but I understand why Wall Street, banking, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Telecommunications, Big [Social Media] etc., (and so, eventually, the Republicans…e.g., Googling “wall street journal nsa” will return 42 million hits) would fear such a computer/software program…

They apply their own ethics to the problem, and know that they would use that information for political and/or monetary profit…and so they project their own ethics (or lack thereof) onto computer/software programs that have no ability to “wrong” others…but are narrowly focused upon preventing another 9/11.

The bizarre thing, from my perspective, is that the Republicans represent those who have the most to fear from software that seeks out the signatures of criminal behavior and/or terrorism…yet the Republicans are who created Homeland Security and “the Patriot Act”.

I surmise that it was a case of assuming that wealth alone would protect the few the Republicans represent from reaping what they have sown…just as wealth prevents the few who ran the mortgage-backed securities pyramid scam from being incarcerated as they should have been.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 27, 2013, 7:35 p.m.

To those that have nothing to hide, I usually ask them if they have curtains on their windows at home.


Aug. 27, 2013, 9:35 a.m.

Of course, Steve, the only person who might value privacy must be a criminal.  Couldn’t be anything else.  I’ve certainly never sheltered someone running from an abusive family.  I couldn’t have any respect for journalists who need secrecy to inform us about corruption.  Couldn’t even be because I have friends who immigrated from repressive regimes, so I’ve heard where this story ends.  Nah, must be because I’m paid to say so by some evil corporation.

Nobody points out the windfall the surveillance regime has been to the companies that enable it.  I can name about fifty off the top of my head (hint:  You probably used at least three of them to connect to the Internet), who are thrilled with every person who says they don’t care because they have nothing to hide.  Who pays for your narrow-minded voice…?


Aug. 26, 2013, 9:43 p.m.

The fact that a computer reviews your phone log and decides whether you’re a terrorist doesn’t make it any less invasive or offensive.

Seems like that deserves framing…along with a list of endorsements.

Bet that latter list would be…interesting.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 26, 2013, 8:19 p.m.

@John, thanks for the posting, I have gleaned some education from them.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Aug. 26, 2013, 8:16 p.m.

@Brown, that explains it then, I just thought he had no critical thinking skills.


Aug. 26, 2013, 7:39 p.m.

Seattle guy is a team themis troll. Corrupt entities pay him to call everyone paranoid. scary stuff. Don’t bother with him. He knows the truth but gets paid to act otherwise.


Aug. 26, 2013, 4:27 p.m.

Hal, I’ve worked in informatics and data mining.  I know exactly what can be extracted from data.  Nice try, though, imagining that I’ve just been mindlessly surfing the web for twenty years.  Perhaps you’d also like to imply that I spend my days playing video games in my mom’s basement or maybe a communist.

For those who are unaware of how things work, this is a decently-approachable introduction to the topic that nicely avoids maps, clustering, dimensions, and so forth.  It’s a toy example, the sort of thing you’d give to an undergraduate programmer to get his feet wet.  The big boys do much more interesting things.

They admit to capturing all traffic, though.  Your phone calls are VoIP, which means they’re part of the traffic.  Whether or not they physically listen in now, they will, it’s only a matter of time, assuming it doesn’t actually happen (they’ve lied about so much already, after all).  It’s common sense, because the data and processing power are there, and anybody who could do it but didn’t would be fired for holding back.

(To be clear, I don’t think the architects of the program have done anything wrong.  Pushing the envelope is arguably their job.  It’s the leaders who have enabled it and allowed it to continue that are at fault, deciding whose rights are important in the name of defending us from scary monsters under the bed.)

And automating the process does not change things.  The fact that a computer reviews your phone log and decides whether you’re a terrorist doesn’t make it any less invasive or offensive.  If I wrote some software that promised to pay your bills for you, would it be any less harmful to you when it sent your savings to me or missed a few payments on your house?  Even though no human physically did it, it’s still a problem.

Probability also changes nothing.  One false positive is a very bad thing.  We didn’t found this country on the basis that all men are created equal unless it’s only a couple of guys and a computer said to do it.

You’re the one straining credibility, by assuming that a secret program that everybody in the know has lied about is playing by the rules and dismissing abuses as impossible to avoid.

You’re also straining credibility by asserting that this has stopped actual terrorists, when the easiest guys in the world to disrupt killed people at the Boston Marathon.  (Perhaps it’s because terrorists aren’t stupid enough to call themselves on a Verizon network and post secret plans on each other’s Facebook Walls.)

That’s not to mention that no legal warrant would ever be issued for “all Internet traffic,” which is what they have.


Aug. 26, 2013, 2:36 p.m.

@john- Working on the web since day one or not. If you don’t understand datamining and how the NSA is using algorithms with supercomputers to easily find terrorist networks without using personal information, you are a lay person IMHO.

When you cross the line and say something like, “listening in”, you cross into human surveillance involving warrants and usually the FBI, in these instances. That is a very unusual situation and, of course, it is very intrusive, but you have a better chance of attending an MLB game and witnessing an unassisted triple play than being the target of that handoff between the NSA and FBI. Are you still with me at this point?

The loveint issue will always be there no matter what is done with the NSA’s programs. Agreed? Set that aside and all illegal activity by government and commercial enterprise. I don’t think we disagree that those who break the law should be prosecuted. But you have not given me a reason to find and disrupt terrorist attacks as long as it doesn’t penetrate any personal information without a warrant.


Aug. 26, 2013, 10:38 a.m.

Here’s FISC’s own analysis of the program.  They repeatedly say they think they’re being lied to, and while they’re oddly OK on Fourth Amendment grounds (presumably because judges currently believe it only applies to rifling through underwear drawers), they do call the program unconstitutional.

Think what you want about the EFF itself, but this was released under the Freedom of Information Act because they sued for it.

Here’s a quick summary of highlights, if you don’t have the time to read the whole thing:

Next, we have evidence not entirely in this context, but we can see that the NSA doesn’t care that it’s a military organization operating on American soil and doesn’t care about fallout from any spying it does.

I can only imagine the blowback in the ‘80s if the Russians had done something similar.

Assuming the government can be trusted to not abuse its power, NSA employees may not be prevented from monitoring their ex-girlfriends, because that’s clearly less creepy and more important than stopping terrorists.

You can argue that it’s a limited number, but (a) it’s only what we’ve learned about from a secretive agency and (b) the first one is an atrocity.  It’s the equivalent of cops beating suspects to death, nobody should care that “it’s only a few every year.”

Here’s the DEA/IRS angle, showing that they essentially launder intelligence content to pretend they’re not violating civil rights.  It also shows that the tools aren’t being used exclusively to stop terrorists, since…well, how many terrorists are out there filing tax returns?

I think the Groklaw case also better summarizes the danger of these programs better than anybody whining about their personal privacy.

I don’t worry about my privacy; I’m seriously just as much of a loudmouth when my last name is attached to what I say.  I worry about the privacy of the abuse victim trying to get away from his/her significant other at the NSA.  I worry about the next Glenn Greenwald about to receive a data dump that the government would prefer remain secret.  I worry about the next Dennis Kucinich, willing to actually be a disruptive voice in Washington no matter what powers he offends.  I worry about the political dissident in the Bahrain that our government will sell out to preserve our “special relationship.”  I worry about the next Malcolm X trying to march on Washington.  I worry about the next Occupy Wall Street or TEA Party.

We live in a situation where large companies and our government have control over these situations (by knowing the participants, their power structures, and their locations) and strong motivation to disrupt them, with many means at its disposal and a long history of using such means against enemies, Chelsea (formerly known as Bradley) Manning being the latest, and Aaron Swartz not too distant a memory.

(In fact, note how heavily the government and media try to hammer home the fact that Greenwald is gay, Snowden dated a stripper, and Manning is transsexual.  You’d almost think they want to divert attention from their wrongdoing to a spurious connection between whistle-blowing and some vague idea of “sexual deviance.”  Insert your own crude joke here.)

Speaking as someone who lost more than a few acquaintances in the World Trade Center, I’m willing to let the same thing happen again every day, if it means that reformers can do their thing without worrying what the “military-industrial complex” is going to do about it.

Destroying civil rights over fear of an enemy is what they do in the worst dictatorships in the world, including those in the Arab world producing terrorists, after all.  The solution to “they hate us for our freedoms” is not to eliminate our freedoms.  It also clearly doesn’t work.  The shoe bomber got on his plane.  The underwear bomber got on his plane.  The NYPD didn’t notice the SUV filled with fertilizer parked outside its office until a street vendor mentioned it.  The Boston Marathon bomber succeeded.

The government claims all of those events as victories, however.


Aug. 26, 2013, 10:01 a.m.

SeattleGuy, this is progress.  I now understand partly where you’re coming from.  I still disagree, but now I see where the disagreement is.

First, to clarify, I’ve been working on the web since…well, not Day One, because I thought it was a passing fad that’d go the way of gopher (supported forever, but irrelevant), but pretty early, probably in the first year.  I’ve taught courses in programming against TCP/IP for fifteen years, too, so I know exactly what’s possible, and have always assumed the NSA would be listening in.

However, that doesn’t make it right.  I assume that many cops really, really want to torture confessions out of suspects, too, but I’m still displeased when it happens and make a point to argue against it whenever there’s evidence.  That’s what’s important about what Snowden did, after all:  He provided the evidence of what, until now, was dismissed as rumor by the tinfoil-hat crowd.

You can trust the existing government, if you want to, but what about the next administration or the one twenty years from now?  The room for abuse is phenomenal, ranging from terrorists (well, except for the Boston Marathon bomber, who managed to elude tracking even when the Russian government told us he was dangerous; that brain-damaged boxer was clearly a mastermind) to disrupting protests to digging up dirt on political opponents.

Maybe it won’t happen under Obama—though the DEA and IRS’s “parallel construction” training argues that it’s been happening since before Osama bin Laden hit the news and continues under Obama—but there are a lot of candidates in every election, and more of them are Rick Perry, Al Sharpton, or Michelle Bachman, than they are Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan.

Don’t want to have too much auto-moderation, so I’ll cut this, and run through links next.


Aug. 24, 2013, 7:14 p.m.

My point is that we have no proof that an effective oversight regime or auditing procedure exists that could curtail actual abuse, or even theoretical abuse. If a 3rd party contractor can access troves of information unbeknownst to the NSA and moreover physically remove it, that’s an enormous red flag right there.

You want to argue it’s technically feasible for that capability to exist, and you’re right, it is. You’re making good points on that and I really don’t disagree with you about it. In fact I appreciate your response, you seem fairly knowledgeable. The problem is the NSA is overseeing itself. Ostensibly it is the FISC court, but when they come out and state (in previously classified documents) that they have to rely on the NSA to provide them information in order to do so, then it’s a farce.

Here’s an example: “The Court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding NSA’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program.”

The NSA has no reason to perform a thorough and accountable auditing process of themselves. It’s in their best interests not to do so. If they uncover massive problems and report those, it hurts not only the organization but the people in charge of it. I assume you have a reasonable degree of technical expertise, can you tell me with a straight face that the potential for abuse and misuse of these programs and systems is not enormous?

You want to knock the WSJ due it’s ownership, and not uncommonly seen bias. Sometimes it certainly is guilty of that, but it’s not completely a partisan rag. It’s certainly feasible that due to it’s republican/conservative bias that the reporter who acquired those sources was able to do so in the first place. But the theoretical motivation you apply for it to do so is absurd to me. Why on Earth would this system ever target them? The fraud and abuse these institutions have frequently committed are often no big secret at all, and yet no one’s going after them. The true threat, the historically proven threat such capabilities provide is against people such as civil rights activists, government critics, activists in general, protesters, journalists and so on. These tools and powers have always been targeted at the powerless, not the powerful.

I would love nothing more than for the entire Murdoch empire to crumble and be revealed to all(as is already obvious to some) for the sham that it is, and the outright destructive force it has been on society. If you seriously want the NSA to take down Wall Street or the WSJ, and be considered legitimate for such use, you would only be replacing one evil with a potentially greater one. It’s also not as though his organizations didn’t relentlessly defend these programs and agencies during the Bush years. If they weren’t worried then, I don’t see why any of them would be now.

Wasn’t this whole X(classified) Billion/year security state put in place to fight terrorism, anyway? We’ve already killed many, many times over more innocent people fighting terrorism than died here to cause that.

When that bill to defund one aspect of this whole program was about to be voted on, Keith Alexander (longest serving NSA director) called an emergency meeting with representatives.

‘Interview with Congressman Alan Grayson D-FL: “SIROTA:…(is it possible) NSA not only has data and information on all of us but also has a lot of information on a lot of all of you and your colleagues in the Congress?

GRAYSON: It’s possible – one of my colleagues asked the NSA point blank will you give me a copy of my own record and the NSA said no, we won’t. They didn’t say no we don’t have one. They said no we won’t.’

At the very least we should be concerned about ending up with another J. Edgar Hoover.


Aug. 24, 2013, 6:06 p.m.

Sigh…I suppose that is what I get for attempting to provide a simplistic example from which I anticipated that other queries would be logically derived.

While you’re eager to “prove” your point, to do so you must assume the absence of a - for the sake of simplicity - master “work order” that is maintained in a separate table.  That “work order”, one would anticipate, would automatically be provided with a unique identifying (one can assume alphanumeric) “work order number” if and only if the work is “signed off” on…that is authorized.

Then another table would hold the actual work done; from that table you would retrieve the actual originating and/or destination IP address/phone number used for data capture.

Then auditing becomes a simple matter of determining whether or not the originator/destination IP/phone number for the work that was actually done matches the authorized IP address/phone number (or falls within the IP address/phone country code range) using the “work order number” as the foreign key.

Now I can understand why the Wall Street Journal (your apparent source) and such as Rupert Murdoch would be deathly afraid of the NSA: most of the high value money laundering and out-and-out criminality in America is committed by Wall Street and the entangled web that is America’s financial system; with enough data capture, prosecuting the Wall Street and banking barons who so terrorize America’s economy would become a piece of cake.

Lacking sufficient evidence to hypothesize otherwise, I have to assume that no Murdoch property in the U.S. of A. has, as yet, committed the wiretapping and answering machine hacking that has made the Murdoch name so beloved in Britain.  (Or been prosecuted for it, anyway.)

Although the record of such activities would, no doubt, become available to the DOJ if the effort to blind the NSA fails.


Aug. 24, 2013, 5:26 p.m.

No, I’m simply portraying what an effective audit could be, while pointing out the deficiencies present in their audit. How can your database query example be consistent with what we’ve learned? Why would “[Audit.Justification] IS NOT IN [list of valid justifications]”, when they use a pull down tab with a list of justifications? Why would an unjustified option be present? On some of these they type out that sort of information, how do you propose simple database queries to precisely determine that?

Why in those training slides is the idea of self-reporting errors and mistakes so important if those errors and mistakes are so easily determined? For one thing, we’re dealing with a multitude of different programs, with varying modes of access to information.

What about the LOVEINT revelation that’s making the rounds?
“The LOVEINT violations involved overseas communications, officials said, such as spying on a partner or spouse. In each instance, the employee was punished either with an administrative action or termination.

Most of the incidents, officials said, were self-reported. Such admissions can arise, for example, when an employee takes a polygraph tests as part of a renewal of a security clearance.”

This after they’ve claimed intentional abuses never occurred.

Diane Feinstein: She said “in most instances” the violations didn’t involve an American’s personal information.

Or an anonymous source within the intelligence community saying this: More than two months after documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden first began appearing in the news media, the National Security Agency still doesn’t know the full extent of what he took, according to intelligence community sources, and is “overwhelmed” trying to assess the damage.

Most evidence overwhelmingly points to them having a dangerously insufficient oversight regime and entirely inadequate auditing capabilities. The evidence to the contrary is severely lacking.

Via an anonymous source:


Aug. 24, 2013, 5:06 p.m.

Hence, by the way, the justification for the new Utah data center:  Data that you cannot quickly retrieve and analyze is - depending upon which side of the action divider you’re operating on - useless.

I.e., once intel becomes stale, your ability to be preemptive is gone; you can only be reactive…which may enable prosecutions and retaliatory acts, but doesn’t save American lives/protect the United States of America.


Aug. 24, 2013, 4:45 p.m.

You’re assuming - or attempting to portray - insider knowledge about the nature of the audit…your argument is dependent upon antique paper-based auditing where the “paperwork” must be sampled rather than analyzed in bulk.

I.e., you’re ruling out database queries of the sort

SELECT COUNT(*) FROM [table of all audits] WHERE [Audit.Justification] IS NOT IN [list of valid justifications] OR (([Audit.IP_Origination] IN (SELECT Country.IP FROM [table of IP address by nations] WHERE [] = ‘US’) AND ([Audit.IP_Destination] IN (SELECT Country.IP FROM [table of IP address by nations] WHERE [] = ‘US’))

which can yield precise results.

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