NSA Claims Surveillance Programs Aided The Stopping Of 50 Attacks; Details Lacking

from the obfuscate,-obfuscate,-obfuscate dept

In a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee today, NSA boss Keith Alexander once again claimed that the big NSA surveillance programs had stopped terrorist attacks. Rather than the "dozens" he stated last week, today it became "more than 50 potential terrorist events." Of course, as is typical, both the questions (asked by NSA supporters) and the answers were pretty carefully choreographed. Digging in, you find out that Alexander was specifically referring to PRISM, and not the (much more worrisome) dragnet of all phone records. On that program, there doesn't appear to be any actual data on what it was used for. On top of that, when asked about whether or not these programs were essential or necessary to stopping those attacks, as compared to other programs, no one would say that they were necessary or essential.

The other careful choice of words was people would ask about whether or not phone calls had been recorded under these particular programs, but not other programs. When Deputy Attorney General James Cole was specifically asked about other programs, he responded that that was classified information. Make of that what you will. Cole also claimed that the program to collect all phone numbers "is not a program that's off the books, that's been hidden away." Of course, if that were true, why are so many people -- including politicians who supposedly have oversight over the program -- so surprised about it? How come there has been no reporting on it? How come, when asked about it, Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper said "no" to whether or not information was collected on millions of Americans? It certainly sounds "hidden away."

Meanwhile, the really shameful performance came from Rep. Mike Rogers, who led the hearing, who again claimed that Ed Snowden both was lying and that his revelations weakened American security by revealing secrets to enemies. And then he pulled out this whopper:
"It is at times like these when our enemies within become almost as damaging as the enemies on the outside. It is critically important to protect sources and methods so we aren't giving the enemy our playbook."
So, again, no one understands the programs revealed, because Snowden's leaked info is wrong... and now our enemies know what we're doing... and Snowden is "almost as damaging" as those who wish to attack us. None of that makes any sense at all.

In the end, though, it's more of the same. Even if we could say that these programs were useful in stopping a potential attack, what we don't know is if the program was necessary to do so. We don't know what sort of collateral damage was caused. We don't know if traditional methods of investigation would have worked just as well, with no violations of privacy for Americans. We're just being told on faith to "trust the NSA."


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    I wonder how many of those attacks were set up by the FBI so they can foil their own plot and take credit for it.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:21am

    Next up: NSA claims that their surveillance program could have stopped Hitler.

    More news at [REDACTED].

     

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  3.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:28am

    I now want an "enemies within" t-shirt.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:31am

    Keith Alexander please cite court cases to to substantiate the claims.

     

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  5.  
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    Loki, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:32am

    Re:

    I was going to say the same thing. FBI creates fake plots, waits for NSA to ferret them out (or leak enough info for NSA to do so if plot is to close to fruition) before swooping in for the kill. Then they can slap each other on the back for a job well done, and report to everyone else how "important" and "necessary" their work is.

     

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  6.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    NSA claims surveillance could have stopped the revolutionary war.

     

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  7.  
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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:35am

    Only 50? This is a program that's been running since 9/11, and they've only managed to stop 50?

    Totally worth both the price of freedom via the Constitution and the taxpayer's dollar.

    /sarcasm

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Confidence in House oversight?

    For those of you (us) who watched this hearing… As a result of watching, was your confidence in the House Intelligence Committee's oversight increased, decreased or unaffected?

    I saw sharper questioning in recent hearings before both Senate Appropriations and House Judiciary.

    This hearing, in contrast, looked to me like it was at least partially intended as a PR exercise, to build up confidence among the public. Of course, the HPSCI members do get classified briefings—maybe they reserve their sharpest questions for the closed sessions.

     

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  9.  
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    Michael, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re:

    and they would be running most of it for free with labor from slaves.

     

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  10.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Who would have thought...

    The NSA uses Daleks:
    Obfuscate! Obfuscate! Obfuscate!

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Expect Rep. Rogers to reconvene the House Un-American Activities Committee any day now. They'll root out all the terrorists and terrorist-sympathizers.

     

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  12.  
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    Chris Brand, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Terrorist "events"

    Knowing how the NSA likes to play linguistic games, tt certainly wouldn't surprise me if one terrorist attack consisted of 4 or more terrorist "events". What definition of "terrorist event" are they using ? Planning meetings ? Taking photos of the White House ?

     

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  13.  
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    Michael, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:39am

    Re:

    They also already said it was in 20 countries around the world, so we have no idea if any of them had anything to do with US national security.

    They also have not given us any information about how feasible or destructive any of these attacks could have been. Have they stopped 50 nuclear bombs from going off, or prevented 50 shoe bombers from getting far enough into an airport to get manhandled by the TSA?

     

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  14.  
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    sehlat (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:39am

    In other words, "Trust us." with no way to verify.

     

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  15.  
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    John Doe, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:39am

    How many were of their own creation?

    Does this count the attacks that the FBI orchestrates and then stops?

     

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  16.  
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    sehlat (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    In other words, "Trust us." with no way to verify.

    Short form translation is "FO."

     

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  17. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:41am

    See the post that You Know Who doesn’t want you to see: http://bit.ly/14gT9mc

    Block that!

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:41am

    Yes We Can? More like: Yes, We Scan!

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:42am

    Re:

    Every time I think you've hit rock bottom, you just keep on digging. It's impressive.

     

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  20.  
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    Michael, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:43am

    Re: Confidence in House oversight?

    was your confidence in the House Intelligence Committee's oversight increased, decreased or unaffected?

    I can definitively say that it did not decrease.

     

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  21.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re:

    He is a bottomless black hole of stupid. Don't get sucked in.

     

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  22.  
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    Dirkmaster (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Again, I would just like to point out Hichen's Razor:

    That which can be asserted without evidence,
    Can be dismissed without evidence.

    This ever-growing plot count is utterly meaningless, IMHO. Give us ONE example, or STFU.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Potential Terrorist Events

    "50 potential terrorist events" is hardly the same thing as 50 imminent terrorist attacks, is it?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re: Confidence in House oversight?

    I can definitively say that it did not decrease.

    Rock-bottom to begin with, yes?

     

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  25.  
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    Kevin H (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:56am

    Re:

     

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  26.  
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    Beta (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:56am

    coffee mug, bumper sticker, mouse pad...

    You beat me to it. I most certainly am the enemy of Rep. Rogers and those who think like him. And he is mine whether he sees it or not.

    As to whether he would consider me "within" or "outside", or whether I am "more damaging" than the others, I have no idea.

     

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  27. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Why is he so afraid of this post? http://bit.ly/14gT9mc

    Hmm...

     

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  28.  
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    Dave Xanatos, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 11:58am

    Only 50?

    I know, right? 50. Ha! My bear repelling rock has stopped over 9000!!! bear attacks. You just try to prove that it hasn't.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    Re:

    Why wont you stop spamming?

    Hmmm...

     

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  30.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    Alexander really needs to be clearer that the NSA is only thwarting the "Dr. Evil" supervillian type of terrorists with all of this high-tech surveillance.

    Hillbillies, morons, and, I don't know, PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY BLOW THINGS UP seem to be on the decline since the 1970s. This Guardian story has the pertinent graphs.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

    And in related news of precisely equal truth value

    "I have here in my briefcase the names of 50 Communists in the United States government."

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    Re: And in related news of precisely equal truth value

    ...and they all work for the NSA

     

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  33.  
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    P., Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:18pm

    What's next....

    Last week it was "It helped stop 20 attacks"... Today it's 50. What is next week?
    A) 75
    B) 100
    C) 200
    D) A Billion-Zillion!!! Honest!

     

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  34. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re:

    Spam? It’s the evidence that a certain person runs away when cornered and wrong. See it for yourself: http://preview.tinyurl.com/kq2na5a

     

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  35.  
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    Jesse (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:24pm

    Re:

    "It is at times like these when our enemies within become almost as damaging as the enemies on the outside."

    Read: government critics

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You tinyurled that?

    Hilarious.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Why is that funny?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Spammers are funny. You are a spammer. You are funny. Pretty simple.

     

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  39.  
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    Rapnel (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:31pm

    There is no justification and it's only going to get worse. There is no known cure. There are no effective bill-of-rights-bypass bypass surgery methods currently in testing, approved or accepted.

    P0wned - in well fell swoop. Your DNA please.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sorry, let me elaborate...

    Your tantrum over not getting the answer you want is hilarious.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    We know at least some of the collateral damage cause by these programs...

    And that would be the sheer destruction of 1st and 4th amendments of the Constitution.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Re:

    The question is, what 50? 50 9/11s? Or 50 7-11 robberies?

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    I don't need to see the playbook but I would like a copy of the rules we're playing by.

    My copy says no warrants shall be issued except upon probable cause. I can't find the section that says except when the NSA says pretty please.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Who needs slaves when you have mindless drones?

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:50pm

    Jimmy Status

    They have het to prevent the rustle of my jimmies.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    Again we see politicians dancing. Probably? Might have? So far what has been claimed to have been stopped has been incorrect. So now we have the fine tooth comb going through the records just in hopes something can be found to show worth. This reminds me of the TSA who has spent all sorts of money for show theater and has yet to yield forth one honest and real terrorist.

    Of course the NSA sees things as slightly crooked compared to the average person who has far less paranoia. What I don't see is claims that the recent Boston Bombing brothers, which Russia warned them of with much time to actually deal with it and dropped the ball. All this information gathering and spying did not aid in any manner the apprehension to prevent such an act from occurring.

    Again, politicians are dancing around but not really addressing the topic at hand with the unvarnished truth.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:54pm

    Sure!

    That is why the only plots they've foiled we've heard about before now have been plots of their own making. They think we're all stupid and/or not paying attention. BULLSHIT!

     

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  48.  
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    Ben (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:57pm

    I trust them!

    We're just being told on faith to "trust the NSA."

    I trust them. Of course I trust them. I trust them to ignore the laws of the land and just do what they want to do "for the greater good" (for rather oddly defined values of "good"). But trust does not equate to respect or even ambivalence; trust is that you feel confident in knowing what choices they'll make.

     

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  49.  
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    wec, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    Wasn't it one their heroes that "Trust, but verify!"

    "It is at times like these when our enemies within become almost as damaging as the enemies on the outside."

    Since from this article, I see no definition of "enemy within", I ass-ume that he was referring to himself and other like minded people.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    So was the Wall Street plot that they successfully foiled "Occupy"?

     

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  51.  
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    Mr. Applegate, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:12pm

    NSA Transcript - fresh off the press.

    ----
    ...Beta: Chocolate, I smell chocolate!

    Gamma: I'm getting prunes and denture cream! Who are they?

    Beta: Oh, man, Master will not be pleased. We better tell him someone took the bird. Right, Alpha?

    Alpha: [in a squeaky voice] No. Soon enough the bird will be ours yet again. Find the scent, my compadres, and you too shall have much rewardings from Master for the toil factor you wage.

    Beta: Hey, Alpha, I think there's something wrong with your collar. You must have bumped it.

    Gamma: Yeah, your voice sounds funny!
    [they both laugh]

    Alpha: Beta! Gamma!
    [they both stop laughing]

    Alpha: Mayhaps you desire to - SQUIRREL!
    [All of them turn their attention to a nearby tree; slight pause, Gamma whimpers]

    Alpha: Mayhaps you desire to challenge the ranking that I have been asigned by my strength and cunning...

    Beta: No, no, no. But maybe Dug would. You might wanna ask him.

    Gamma: Yeah. I wonder if he's found the bird on his very special mission.

    Alpha: Do not mention Dug to me at this time. His fool's errand will keep him most occupied. Most occupied, indeed. Ha ha ha! Do you not agree with that which I am saying to you now?

    Beta: Sure, but the second Master finds out you sent Dug out by himself, none of us will get a treat.
    [He and Gamma whine]

    Alpha: [lunges and growls at them] You are wise, my trusted lieutenant. ...
    -----

    And now you know exactly what your tax dollars get you and just how 'successful' they are.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:15pm

    another bullshit story trying to cover up another bullshit reason for another load of bullshit!!

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:28pm

    Re: What's next....

    It's going to go up exponentially...they'll just change the definition of "attack" to include just about anything.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:30pm

    "We spied on the trillions upon trillions of communications between billions of people for more than a decade. And we found something interesting 50 times."

    Really sounds worthwhile.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Re:

    If it stopped one that would have killed 1000's, doesnt that at least make you stop and think about it being worth it?

     

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  56.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:46pm

    The playbook?

    "It is critically important to protect sources and methods so we aren't giving the enemy our playbook."

    You mean the playbook detailing "how to rape your citizens constitutional rights without letting them know" ?

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re:

    If it had stopped one incident that could have caused that many casualties they would have been crowing all over the press every time the issue of surveillance came up.

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re:

    Assuming that that same one could have just as easily been stopped through other readily available means that arent related to scooping up everyones data all the time.

    And even then, still no.

     

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  59.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    Re: Re:

    No.

     

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  60.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: What's next....

    This. Look what they've done with the term "weapons of mass destruction". Originally, the term referred only to weapons actually capable of mass destruction -- of which there was really only one: nuclear bombs.

    Then they started including biological and chemical weapons in the category. You might be able to make the case for certain biological weapons (certainly not anthrax, though), but not chemical weapons.

    Now, apparently, a WMD means anything that can kill more than three people at a time, or anything that explodes.

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 2:36pm

    Here's a question. Let's assume for the sake of argument that PRISM did, in fact, prevent terrorist attacks.
    Even if that was the case, the only reason it (hypothetically) worked was because the terrorists, like the American public, were unaware that their every action was being recorded for future reference.
    Given that PRISM is now publicly known, how can its continued existence be justified? "It stopped terrorist attacks in the past" is insufficient, because now terrorists know to avoid being monitored by it.

    Offhand, I'd say the NSA is due for massive budget cuts. They're clearly overfunded and desperate to remain that way. The NSA's budget is classified (of course), but a bit of searching shows that it was around $8 billion in 2008, with a few pundits estimating it to currently be at least $10 billion. $5 billion would probably be more appropriate.

     

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  62. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 2:45pm

    Don't miss the post that Mike is desperate to censor: http://is.gd/5gjxqa

    Why's he so scared of dissenting views? Hmm...

     

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  63.  
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    Rapnel (profile), Jun 18th, 2013 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Re:

    No. But it would definitely make me stop and think about what wonderful things government would do next.

    We send thousands of soldiers to their deaths and dismemberment and mental fracturing in order to defend our freedoms and yet we'd have a problem when people could be murdered living those same freedoms? Both would be unfortunate endings to otherwise fruitful lives yet we would condemn ourselves to dust based upon a fictional trust?

    These are not the freedoms people die for - These are the freedoms you're allowed to live with.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 3:38pm

    See the link that Mike is desperate to censor: http://rdd.me/e9cd9hqe

    Mr. Freedom hates that his constituents even know this link exists.

    More to come!

     

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  65.  
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    jingoi, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 4:31pm

    I don't give 50 shits what they claim they've stopped, find a different way to stop these "terrorists", stop wasting money on bullshit.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 6:07pm

    Re: Jimmy Status

    Sounds like you may have spent just a wee bit too much time on 4chan.

     

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  67.  
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    The Real Michael, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 6:09pm

    Re:

    "Next up: NSA claims that their surveillance program could have stopped Hitler."

    Far more likely that such a surveillance program would embolden a dictatorship like Hitler's rather than have prevented it.

     

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  68.  
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    Anonymous, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 6:09pm

    And yet, they couldn't stop 50 Shades Of Grey.

     

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  69.  
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    AC Unknown, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 6:18pm

    Re:

    Now you've become a spammer. Congratulations. Hope your posts get blocked for spamming.

     

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  70. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 7:34pm

    See the post that over 200 people on TD have seen. See the post that mike desperately doesn't want anyone to see. He's so desperate to hide this that he's blocking IPs, keywords, titles, and links.

    Mike hates this post so much that he's going out of his way to censor it: http://tr.im/44w44

    the next edition will be out very soon.

    How hard will he work to hide that from you too?

     

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  71.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2013 @ 8:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's funny because Mike has answered the troll's questions on many occasions, then came to the conclusion that the answers would just be ignored unless the troll was given the answer they were looking for. Since they refuse to acknowledge Mike's answers and spam the site with this nonsense there is no reason to even acknowledge their posts. Just report and move on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  72.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:21am

    McCarthyism has nothing on terrorism

    Only 50?

    Well, it took Osama only 1 to make the Americans turn their freedom-loving country into a police state.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  73.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:30am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Enjoy your tiny echo chamber, LOL!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  74.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:33am

    Re:

    Enjoy your tiny echo chamber, LOL!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  75.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:33am

    Re:

    Enjoy your tiny echo chamber, LOL!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  76.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 2:34am

    Re:

    Enjoy your tiny echo chamber, LOL!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  77.  
    identicon
    me, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 3:31am

    Re:

    So why don't you start your own blog so people can comment? Assuming anyone is interested in commenting on your drivel. Or does allowing comments only work one way?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  78.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2013 @ 7:01am

    I thought it was only one, then it was a dozen across multiple countries and now it's 50. Keep ramping up those numbers because it doesn't matter if it's 1,000 a year, you're still dealing with a lower number than people drowning in their swimming poos each year and you use this as a reason to violate my 4th amendment rights. Fuck you and your reasoning.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  79.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Jun 19th, 2013 @ 9:12am

    Re:

    We don't want to block it. We wish to see how long it takes for someone who was caught cheating on his exam to actually get a job.

    Shall we discuss the merits of my assertion that you were caught cheating on your exam?

    *You are here all day everyday, obviously you have nothing better to do.

    *You infringe on copyright yet call everyone else "pirates."

    *You promise to leave the blog for a year if Mike would engage you. Mike did yet you are still here.

    You don't have any merit therefore merits cannot be discussed with you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  80.  
    identicon
    chis woolley, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 4:12am

    seemmiseeyou

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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