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Old 2013-06-06, 19:26   #1
garo
 
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Default Government snooping, backdoors and #necessaryhashtags

Since there isn't a thread for this I thought I would start one. I would have thought that the government spying on all calls from a big provider would be bigger news than the IRS and AP scandals but unless I am mistaken no one else here seems to think so. Unless of course everyone is to shell-shocked to respond. Though I am sure a certain individual would be here defending this latest outrage.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013...on-court-order
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/us...zon-calls.html

NYT doesn't think it is that big a deal as the Guardian. But that is not surprising.
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Old 2013-06-06, 19:50   #2
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http://www.theatlanticwire.com/polit...-charts/65969/

http://news.yahoo.com/verizon-wants-...191253185.html
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Old 2013-06-06, 20:11   #3
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It's just the latest in a series of "hapless missteps' which are being shamelessly politicized by conservative demagogues, garo. Nothing to see here, I'm sure.

-----------------------------

In other "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" news, some of the last remaining shreds of the 4th amendment have been excised. Perhaps because it came from the supreme court (rather than Obama/DOJ), the NYT editors actually objected to this one.

The SCOTUS decision on the DNA-swab issue, 5-4 as have been nearly all key rulings of the past decade or so, produced some unusual judicial-bedfellowship:
Quote:
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the dissent that was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, eviscerated the logic of the majority opinion.

“The court’s assertion that DNA is being taken, not to solve crimes, but to identify those in the state’s custody, taxes the credulity of the credulous,” he said. “Solving unsolved crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches.”
Between the above, the automatic fingerprinting of foreign arrivees at U.S. airports and the now-standard virtual-strip-searching of all airline passengers, I say the 4th amemdment, in any sense resembling that of its authors, has been effectively nullified.

By way of balance, the NYT also has an op-ed lauding the decision in a nearby piece here.
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Old 2013-06-06, 22:11   #4
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On the "how quickly people forget" theme - Any of our readers remember Room 641A? The Verizon data-suck appears to be an outgrowth of the same 7-years-running (at least) program.

-----------------------------

Garo, in fairness to the NYT, while the lead article on this today which you linked has the benign-sounding sub-head "Top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee defended the surveillance ...", I note their editorial board is not mincing words on this (underlines mine):

President Obama’s Dragnet: The scooping up of all our phone records is an abuse of power that demands a real explanation.
Quote:
Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the 9/11 attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American’s phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls. ...
(full op-ed at the above link)
I suspect the editors may be rather optimistic with the "except the words actually exchanged" note - while doing that for every call would be prohibitive even for the NSA - not in terms of storing a textual transcript but rather in creating one, for every call - I believe such call-content capture is also occurring, likely on a vast scale.

Last fiddled with by ewmayer on 2013-06-06 at 22:35
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Old 2013-06-07, 02:36   #5
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Obviously this has been going on since before Obama took office, another bit of Bush-era PATRIOT Act abuse. It's long been believed to be going on -- all that's new now is a bit of evidence.

I thought that Obama would clean this sort of thing up when he first took office, but apparently that was naive. (Similarly naive: expecting that Putin wouldn't be all that bad, the first time around...)

Last fiddled with by CRGreathouse on 2013-06-07 at 02:43
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Old 2013-06-07, 04:35   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CRGreathouse View Post
Obviously this has been going on since before Obama took office, another bit of Bush-era PATRIOT Act abuse. It's long been believed to be going on -- all that's new now is a bit of evidence.

I thought that Obama would clean this sort of thing up when he first took office, but apparently that was naive. (Similarly naive: expecting that Putin wouldn't be all that bad, the first time around...)
Powers, once acquired, are rarely surrendered, at least not willingly, no matter what the current wielder may have said in the past when someone else had them.
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Old 2013-06-07, 15:28   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kladner View Post
Powers, once acquired, are rarely surrendered, at least not willingly, no matter what the current wielder may have said in the past when someone else had them.
Truer words rarely spoken.
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Old 2013-06-07, 19:25   #8
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ZeroHedge chief-gadfly-blogger "George Washington" offers a lengthy screed titled Is the Government Also Monitoring the CONTENT of Our Phone Calls?. That title is reasonable enough - mass eavesdropping is what the "Room-641A program" (my own term for it) is all about - but GW then makes a startling claim (I underline the dubious part):

The American government is in fact collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.

Anyone care to do a bit of back-of-the-digital-envelope math regarding the amount of data this represents, even in compressed form? And note that while voice data can be very efficiently "compressed" by auto-converting them to text, the compute power needed to run the requisite voice-recognition analysis on every phone call made seems exorbitant even for an agency with the vast resources of the NSA. On the other hand, keyword-searches (a standard first-tier-sniffing tool of the NSA and other surveillance agencies) on voice communications would require precisely such a capability ... perhaps that is why the NSA is co-opting the telecomms' own technology on an ever-increasing basis: to get the vast collective resources of the telecom industry to do the NSA's "heavy lifting" work for it. Hmmm ... I am still skeptical about the "collecting and storing virtually everything" claim, but even if it's not true yet, that is surely the direction things are going, and frighteningly fast.

[Snark: Funniest reader comment to the above ZH piece is by "General Decline", who writes in MLKesque fashion "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their phone calls."]

As far as what-is-going-on-right-now, this online primer, EAVESDROPPING 101, by the folks at nsawatch.org appears to be more realistic (and only slightly less scary).

Its take is confirmed in the WaPo piece [which broke the story, along with UK's The Guardian] on the classified program codenamed PRISM, which offers more detail about the "public/private partnerships" involved. (In rather ironic fashion, WaPo's Opinion page at the same time I snarfed the article featured a piece titled "Confronting China on Cyberspying" ... uh, I think we need to look a little closer to home for the really egregious cyberspying):

Documents: U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program
Quote:
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.

The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

An internal presentation on the Silicon Valley operation, intended for senior analysts in the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, described the new tool as the most prolific contributor to the President’s Daily Brief, which cited PRISM data in 1,477 articles last year. According to the briefing slides, obtained by The Washington Post, “NSA reporting increasingly relies on PRISM” as its leading source of raw material, accounting for nearly 1 in 7 intelligence reports.

That is a remarkable figure in an agency that measures annual intake in the trillions of communications. It is all the more striking because the NSA, whose lawful mission is foreign intelligence, is reaching deep inside the machinery of American companies that host hundreds of millions of American-held accounts on American soil.

The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”
...
Analysts who use the system from a Web portal at Fort Meade key in “selectors,” or search terms, that are designed to produce at least 51 percent confidence in a target’s “foreignness.” That is not a very stringent test. Training materials obtained by the Post instruct new analysts to submit accidentally collected U.S. content for a quarterly report, “but it’s nothing to worry about.”

Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as “incidental,” and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect’s inbox or outbox is swept in. Intelligence analysts are typically taught to chain through contacts two “hops” out from their target, which increases “incidental collection” exponentially. The same math explains the aphorism, from the John Guare play, that no one is more than “six degrees of separation” from any other person.

A ‘directive’

Formally, in exchange for immunity from lawsuits, companies like Yahoo and AOL are obliged to accept a “directive” from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to open their servers to the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit, which handles liaison to U.S. companies from the NSA. In 2008, Congress gave the Justice Department authority to for a secret order from the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court to compel a reluctant company “to comply.”

In practice, there is room for a company to maneuver, delay or resist. When a clandestine intelligence program meets a highly regulated industry, said a lawyer with experience in bridging the gaps, neither side wants to risk a public fight. The engineering problems are so immense, in systems of such complexity and frequent change, that the FBI and NSA would be hard pressed to build in back doors without active help from each company.

Apple demonstrated that resistance is possible, for reasons unknown, when it held out for more than five years after Microsoft became PRISM’s first corporate partner in May 2007. Twitter, which has cultivated a reputation for aggressive defense of its users’ privacy, is still conspicuous by its absence from the list of “private sector partners.”

“Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data,” a company spokesman said.
"That's right, we care about our user's data so much that we store backups of them on these very secure and highly reliable NSA servers."

Sarcasm aside, in fairness to Google they at least made a show of challenging the directive's constitutionality - but what we need is one of these very-deep-pocketed companies, or even better, a alliance of them, to use some of their manifold $billions in cash to mount a major legal challenge to the US government on all fronts here. They have a better chance of succeeding here than any "littler" initiative, no disrespect to the EFF.

Last fiddled with by ewmayer on 2013-06-07 at 19:25
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Old 2013-06-08, 18:53   #9
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[One more in-depth post on this and then I promise to restrict myself to briefer updates as news warrants.]

o For starters, it turns out my sarcastic aside in post #8 regarding Google's assurance that “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data” was not far off the mark.

o Anyone else catch the truly Kafkaesque defense offered for the mass-surveillance by the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the NYT editorial I linked?
Quote:
The defense of this practice offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be preventing this sort of overreaching, was absurd. She said today that the authorities need this information in case someone might become a terrorist in the future. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the vice chairman of the committee, said the surveillance has “proved meritorious, because we have gathered significant information on bad guys and only on bad guys over the years.”
How is that materially different from "we have no evidence you've done anything wrong, but need to detain you indefinitely in case you might commit a crime in the future"? It is precisely the same "rationale".

(The "only the bad guys" statement from Senator Chambliss is such an obvious falsehood it's not even worthy of highlight).

o The president was similarly disingenuous in his "robust defense" of the program yesterday:
Quote:
“If the intelligence community actually wants to listen to a telephone call, they have to go back to a federal judge,” Mr. Obama said.
It is clear that neither the Bush nor Obama administration has had the slightest difficulty persuading "a judge" of their choosing - whose paycheck is issued by the same entity asking for his approval and whose decisions are currently secret and entirely unaccountable - to approve more or less anything they ask when it is accompanied by the magical constitution-nullifying incantation of "national security".

Quote:
He said the collection of information from Internet companies like Google and Apple does not apply to American citizens or people living in the United States.
Say what now? Because the leaked directives specifically include purely domestic communications ... as the very same article above notes a few paragraphs further on:
Quote:
Under the classified program revealed Thursday, the federal government has been secretly collecting information on foreigners overseas for nearly six years from the nation’s largest Internet companies in search of national security threats. The revelation came just hours after government officials acknowledged a separate seven-year effort to sweep up records of telephone calls inside the United States.
Or as reported by WaPo in its version of the Verizon story yesterday:
Quote:
The National Security Agency appears to be collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest phone companies, under a top-secret court order issued in April.

The order appears to require a Verizon subsidiary to provide the NSA with daily information on all telephone calls by its customers within the United States and from foreign locations into the United States.
So there we have it - the president who promised "openness and transparency", caught in a bald-faced lie of Nixonian proportions.

Obama went on to blather to the effect that "you can't have 100% security without some inconvenience." Straw man - no reasonable person expects, much less requests, 100% security from all dangers in life. "Reasonable security" is the standard to use here, and it must *always* be n accord with the constitution, if we are in fact a nation of laws. "Convenience" is entirely immaterial in regard to the legal foundations.

More disingenuity from Obama:
Quote:
He repeatedly stressed that the surveillance programs were subject to Congressional oversight. In fact, he suggested that the programs — which he conceded were classified as top secret — were not truly secret because many members of Congress were aware of them.
So even though said members of Congress were sworn to secrecy on the issue, "the programs were not truly secret"? Wow. Just wow ...


o Sadly, the above "robust defense" article was accompanied in yesterday's online NYT by two with the following titles indicative of broad acquiescence to this mass-scale forfeiture of constitutional rights:

As Criticism Grows, Curtailing Surveillance Program Seems Unlikely: Advocates of Congressional intervention say public pressure from fresh disclosures could revive legislation to at least force more transparency in the government’s surveillance programs.

Many Americans Appear Resigned to Surveillance: Amid protests, many say that government tracking of Americans’ phone logs and foreigners’ online activities is an acceptable trade-off to ward off terrorism.

Which bring to mind a memorable quote by a famous American who understood what fighting for liberty meant:

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

Last fiddled with by ewmayer on 2013-06-08 at 18:55
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Old 2013-06-09, 09:43   #10
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Off-topic posts from cheesehead, chalsall and Ernst moved to the "Infamous" thread. I am going to show zero-tolerance on off-topic crap on this thread for once.
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Old 2013-06-09, 20:40   #11
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o Senators Wyden and Udall: government has adopted a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act which would shock Americans.

ZH blogger GW has more on this here - to his credit, he uses the added technical data to modify his earlier statement about recording of *everything* including phone calls - note precisely the issue of "reducing to text" I raised in post #8. [Not that I take any real comfort in this "temporary technical hurdle."]

o Norman Solomon of Counterpunch offers An Open Letter to Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee

o Even NYT ultraliberal opiner and longtime Obama see-no-evil-er Maureen Dowd has finally seen the light:
Quote:
Back in 2007, Obama said he would not want to run an administration that was “Bush-Cheney lite.” He doesn’t have to worry. With prisoners denied due process at Gitmo starving themselves, with the C.I.A. not always aware who it’s killing with drones, with an overzealous approach to leaks, and with the government’s secret domestic spy business swelling, there’s nothing lite about it.
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