Quotes of the day

posted at 8:01 pm on June 9, 2013 by Allahpundit

The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.

The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message…

A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA “global heat map” seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97bn pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.

***

Several industry officials told The Post that the [PRISM] system pushes requested data from company servers to classified computers at FBI facilities at Quantico. The information is then shared with the NSA or other authorized intelligence agencies.

According to slides describing the mechanics of the system, PRISM works as follows: NSA employees engage the system by typing queries from their desks. For queries involving stored communications, the queries pass first through the FBI’s electronic communications surveillance unit, which reviews the search terms to ensure there are no U.S. citizens named as targets.

That unit then sends the query to the FBI’s data intercept technology unit, which connects to equipment at the Internet company and passes the results to the NSA.

The system is most often used for e-mails, but it handles chat, video, images, documents and other files as well.

***

While once the flow of data across the Internet appeared too overwhelming for N.S.A. to keep up with, the recent revelations suggest that the agency’s capabilities are now far greater than most outsiders believed. “Five years ago, I would have said they don’t have the capability to monitor a significant amount of Internet traffic,” said Herbert S. Lin, an expert in computer science and telecommunications at the National Research Council. Now, he said, it appears “that they are getting close to that goal.”…

When separate streams of data are integrated into large databases — matching, for example, time and location data from cellphones with credit card purchases or E-ZPass use — intelligence analysts are given a mosaic of a person’s life that would never be available from simply listening to their conversations. Just four data points about the location and time of a mobile phone call, a study published in Nature found, make it possible to identify the caller 95 percent of the time.

“We can find all sorts of correlations and patterns,” said one government computer scientist who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “There have been tremendous advances.”…

Industry experts say that intelligence and law enforcement agencies also use a new technology, known as trilaterization, that allows tracking of an individual’s location, moment to moment. The data, obtained from cellphone towers, can track the altitude of a person, down to the specific floor in a building. There is even software that exploits the cellphone data seeking to predict a person’s most likely route. “It is extreme Big Brother,” said Alex Fielding, an expert in networking and data centers.

***

Sen. Mark Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday he’s skeptical whether a vast phone record-tracking program is needed to thwart potential terrorist attacks.

It’s “unclear to me that we’ve developed any intelligence through the metadata program that’s led to the disruption of plots that we couldn’t have developed through other data and other intelligence,” the Colorado Democrat said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

***

“They’ve really got immediate huge, major leaks that sort of put the AP story and the Fox and Rosen things in a complete different light. Those look relatively minor, while these are huge,” said Ted Boutrous, a media lawyer who has represented journalists caught up in leak inquiries. “I have very little doubt that they will conduct an aggressive investigation.”…

“You can sort of hear the polygraph machines warming up,” quipped Steven Aftergood, who’s been tracking leak probes for two decades for the Federation of American Scientists.

Former officials and investigators said one looming concern is that the leaker might have more documents or access to them and could release them if not caught.

”It’s very, very alarming. You’ve got basically a double agent in your midst taking all your secrets and just handing them out to the press,” said Zeidenberg. “I think that that’s a huge issue.”

***

In his press conference on Friday, President Obama described the massive collection of phone and digital records as “two programs that were originally authorized by Congress, have been repeatedly authorized by Congress”. But Congress has never specifically authorized these programs, and the Patriot Act was never intended to allow the daily spying the Obama administration is conducting

Technically, the administration’s actions were lawful insofar as they were done pursuant to an order from the Fisa court. But based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the Fisa court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.

The released Fisa order requires daily productions of the details of every call that every American makes, as well as calls made by foreigners to or from the United States. Congress intended to allow the intelligence communities to access targeted information for specific investigations. How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?

***

Greenwald’s hard-left conspiracy theories are attractive to far-right talk show hosts and bloggers who share a common suspicion of liberal government. This suspicion has been nurtured by the recent IRS scandal and the Justice Department’s overzealous pursuit of journalists. The result has been a debate dominated by the extremes, with little patience for nuance, calibration, or balancing. The reality may be less exciting (and less suited for talk show dialogue) than the paranoid narrative, but the boring reality is what must be addressed if necessary reform is to be implemented.

And reform of the current excesses of surveillance is indeed necessary. There is too much secrecy, too little accountability, too much classification, not enough information, too much speculation. This all feeds into the paranoid streak because we don’t know what we don’t know. For those who trust the government this informational lacunae is an excuse for inaction. For those who do not trust the government, it is an excuse for ranting and raving instead of legislating compromised reform…

So let the debate begin, but don’t let it be dominated by the extremes or fueled by paranoia. We need reform, not revolution—improvement, not impeachment.

***

For us, the age of surveillance is more likely to drift toward what Alexis de Tocqueville described as “soft despotism” or what the Forbes columnist James Poulos has dubbed “the pink police state.” Our government will enjoy extraordinary, potentially tyrannical powers, but most citizens will be monitored without feeling persecuted or coerced.

So instead of a climate of pervasive fear, there will be a chilling effect at the margins of political discourse, mostly affecting groups and opinions considered disreputable already. Instead of a top-down program of political repression, there will be a more haphazard pattern of politically motivated, Big Data-enabled abuses. (Think of the recent I.R.S. scandals, but with damaging personal information being leaked instead of donor lists.)

In this atmosphere, radicalism and protest will seem riskier, paranoia will be more reasonable, and conspiracy theories will proliferate. But because genuinely dangerous people will often be pre-empted or more swiftly caught, the privacy-for-security swap will seem like a reasonable trade-off to many Americans — especially when there is no obvious alternative short of disconnecting from the Internet entirely.

Welcome to the future. Just make sure you don’t have anything to hide.

***

There is no way a government in the age of metadata, with the growing capacity to listen, trace, tap, track and read, will not eventually, and even in time systematically, use that power wrongly, maliciously, illegally and in areas for which the intelligence gathering was never intended. People are right to fear that the government’s surveillance power will be abused. It will be. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that humans are and will be in charge of it, and humans have shown throughout history a bit of a tendency to play every trick and bend and break laws. “If men were angels,” as James Madison wrote, limits, checks, balances and specifically protected rights would not be necessary. But they aren’t angels. Add to all this simple human mistakes, innocent and not, and misjudgments. And add to that sheer human craziness, partisan lust, political mischief of all sorts. In the Clinton White House there was a guy named Craig Livingstone who amused himself reading aloud the confidential FBI files of prominent Republicans. The files—hundreds of them—were improperly secured and disseminated. Imagine Craig Livingstone at the National Security Agency. Imagine Lois Lerner.

So if we have and develop a massive surveillance state, it will be abused. And that abuse will, down the road, do damage not only to individuals but, quite probably, to the nation’s morale, to its very vision of itself.

But it will make us – or allow us to feel — physically safer. And it may help break real terror networks bent on real mayhem.

Discuss. Really: Discuss.

***

“For me, it is literally – not figuratively – literally gut-wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities,” Clapper told NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell…

He said the NSA has asked the Justice Department to find whoever leaked the information.

“I think we all feel profoundly offended by that,” Clapper said. “This is someone who, for whatever reason, has chosen to violate a sacred trust for this country. And so I hope we’re able to track down whoever’s doing this, because it is extremely damaging to, and it affects the safety and security of this country.”

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

***

“I know your reporter that you interviewed, Greenwald, says that he’s got it all and now is an expert on the program. He doesn’t have a clue how this thing works, and neither did the person who released just enough information to literally be dangerous.”

***

“Everyone, everywhere now understands how bad things have gotten— and they’re talking about it. They have the power to decide for themselves whether they are willing to sacrifice their privacy to the surveillance state.”


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kingsjester on June 10, 2013 at 7:35 AM

2nd that

cmsinaz on June 10, 2013 at 7:38 AM

bazil9 on June 10, 2013 at 7:37 AM

oh yeah

cmsinaz on June 10, 2013 at 7:39 AM

oh yeah

cmsinaz on June 10, 2013 at 7:39 AM

During the building boom, they tried to revitalize the historic district (where I bought) and built nice gated communities on the outskirts by I-4.

Only time I have ever pulled my gun or had people bolding walk right up to my house and steal shite off my porch. I sold in a year..could have made a fortune if I had stayed..I did not give a damn. Was horrible.

bazil9 on June 10, 2013 at 7:45 AM

You do not pre-collect data on the presumed innocent.

On the presumed guilty? You bet!

ajacksonian on June 10, 2013 at 7:33 AM

Democrats keep calling investigations into the Obama scandals a witch hunt. But the NSA listening in to everyone is a real witch hunt, the largest in human history.

Liam on June 10, 2013 at 7:47 AM

You do not pre-collect data on the presumed innocent.

On the presumed guilty? You bet!

ajacksonian on June 10, 2013 at 7:33 AM

It’s more than that. This story, which essentially is an assault on the Fourth Amendment comes at a time when the rat-eared traitor is also attacking the First and Second Amendments. Which IMO makes NSA spying on Americans all that more reprehensible.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Hey, back on topic-

Now that we know who leaked this program, shouldn’t we be having that debate the rat-eared traitor said he welcomed? The administration is claiming they are not spying on Americans despite all the evidence to the contrary. Let the lazy bastard and his legions of liars like Clapper and Alexander defend what they have been doing.

There is a lot of hate out there for Snowden this morning but the fact of the matter is that this is as big as the Pentagon Papers. He has exposed the fact that our government was lying to us and that they were spying on us. If the administration is doing nothing wrong let them defend these programs in full daylight.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM

AZ Law= BAD Feds sue.

ID to vote=bad
illegals=peachy keen
unsecured border=yawn

NSA vast data collection on all Americans and unlimited control=Good.

bazil9 on June 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM

FIRST!

Racists.

Bishop on June 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Yikes B9

cmsinaz on June 10, 2013 at 8:01 AM

A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday night, hubby and I passed a police checkpoint on the opposite side of the road, so we were not stopped. Hubby asked, how is that Constitutional? I regurgitated something that I’d heard, if they pull over everyone it is somehow legal. Flash forward, data mining EVERYONE… I had to find more information about them and this is what I found:

U.S. Constitutional Law: How do roadway checkpoints not violate the 4th Amendment?

Do the courts have a reasoning for this? I can see a hang-up on the word “reasonable”. They arbitrarily define “reasonable” and do what they want.

Some do, some don’t. It largely depends on whether the police have some “special” purpose other than catching criminals on the roads.

Here’s how the analysis goes, in the abstract:

1.Step One is to decide whether a “special” purpose exists. Examples include promoting road safety, and soliciting information from the public. If the checkpoint is for ordinary crime-solving, then it is generally unconstitutional; the police would need a warrant or individualized probable cause or both. But if the checkpoint does serve some “special” purpose, then it’s not presumptively unconstitutional. In that case, move on to Step Two…

2.Step Two is to weigh reasonableness by considering 1) the importance of the public concerns, 2) how well the checkpoint meets those public concerns, and 3) the degree of impingement on individual liberty.

Here (is an example), so that you can see how this plays out in practice:

•Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, from 1990. The police had set up a checkpoint, so that they could briefly check for signs of drunk driving, which some local residents challenged. The Supreme Court found this checkpoint constitutional. This checkpoint passed Step One (the Sitz Court barely discussed this, but this was how Edmond later understood Sitz), as it was meant to promote highway safety, not simply to catch criminals. On Step Two, the Court found that drunk driving was a major public concern, which outweighed the minimal intrusion from a brief stop. The Court refused to engage in a very searching analysis of how effectively the checkpoint met the public concern of preventing drunk driving, explaining that it mainly was up to local elected officials to select among reasonable techniques for solving the drunk driving problem.

This needs to be overturned. We have already given up our 4th Amendment freedoms…

Fallon on June 10, 2013 at 8:03 AM

@Fallon..
nice connection..good point.
I hadn’t thought of that.

bazil9 on June 10, 2013 at 8:09 AM

I had to find more information about them = roadside checkpoints

Grrr… Going to the Gulch, now, to brew a fresh pot of coffee.

Fallon on June 10, 2013 at 8:10 AM

Fallon on June 10, 2013 at 8:03 AM

I hate those DUI things. HATE THEM. I’m always waived over on my bike and if we’re in a group, forget it, the lot of us are put through the wringer.

I ask them, “What did I do?” and the answer is “Oh we’re just checking, you know, if you’re not drunk then this won’t take long.”

F.U.

Bishop on June 10, 2013 at 8:11 AM

Bishop on June 10, 2013 at 8:11 AM

I hear this, “If you didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about” from more and more people. Just one big collective shrug.

Goodbye, Constitution. **sigh**

Grace_is_sufficient on June 10, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Apparently these programs HAVE thwarted attacks in the last few years.

I don’t want to lose this protection because of some paranoid people.

bluegill on June 10, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Apparently NOT.

Fort Hood? Boston?

Zero doesn’t give a rat’s a$$ about stopping terrorism. This program is about control. Nothing else.

dogsoldier on June 10, 2013 at 8:30 AM

Weird. The whole house just shook. The dogs ran outside and the neighbor’s dog (who’s a barker) just standing silent in the middle of his backyard with his hackles up. Sonic boom? Weird.

Fallon on June 10, 2013 at 8:33 AM

NSA vast data collection on all Americans and unlimited control=Good.

bazil9 on June 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Let’s not forget:

Arming drug cartels = good!
Arming AlQaeda with SAMS = WAY GOOD!

2nd Amendment = WAY BAD!!!

and on and on and on

dogsoldier on June 10, 2013 at 8:33 AM

There is a lot of hate out there for Snowden this morning but the fact of the matter is that this is as big as the Pentagon Papers. He has exposed the fact that our government was lying to us and that they were spying on us. If the administration is doing nothing wrong let them defend these programs in full daylight.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Criminal Acts break the classification agreement. Otherwise one becomes complicit.

dogsoldier on June 10, 2013 at 8:36 AM

I ask them, “What did I do?” and the answer is “Oh we’re just checking, you know, if you’re not drunk then this won’t take long.”

F.U.

Bishop on June 10, 2013 at 8:11 AM

I hear this, “If you didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about” from more and more people. Just one big collective shrug.

Goodbye, Constitution. **sigh**

Grace_is_sufficient on June 10, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Yup.

I’m stunned when I hear, I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I care if the government is collecting information? I can’t believe smart, educated people cannot see the possibility of that’s considered right today might be considered wrong tomorrow…

Fallon on June 10, 2013 at 8:38 AM

If the administration is doing nothing wrong let them defend these programs in full daylight.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 7:57 AM

Yup. Turn it on them. If you (the government) are not doing anything wrong… :)

Fallon on June 10, 2013 at 8:40 AM

I’m stunned when I hear, I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I care if the government is collecting information? I can’t believe smart, educated people cannot see the possibility of that’s considered right today might be considered wrong tomorrow…

Fallon on June 10, 2013 at 8:38 AM

An excellent point!

It’s easy for the Obama Administration to mislead people by claiming that they’re only trying to protect people from terrorists. But according to the Obama Adminstration, who are the terrorists?

According to Janet Napolitano in 2009, “Minutemen” on the Arizona/Mexico border reporting illegal crossings of the border by Mexicans were considered “terrorists”. Yet Homeland Security deliberately sold guns which ended up in the hands of Mexican drug lords.

According to the Obama IRS, any group calling itself “Tea Party” or “Patriot” needs special surveillance and cannot be considered tax-exempt.

But those who attacked the Benghazi consulate weren’t terrorists–they were only upset about an obscure video on You Tube. And all this surveillance never stopped the Tsarnaev brothers from blowing the legs off hundreds of people in blue-state Boston, even after the Russians warned the FBI about them.

For those who think that the Obama Administration is snooping on people to protect them from terrorists–WAKE UP!!! If you oppose Big Brother Barack, YOU ARE A TERRORIST, in his mind!

Steve Z on June 10, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Obviously, we know why Hillary QUIT now.

Wagthatdog on June 10, 2013 at 10:53 AM

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