NSA-To-English Dictionary: I Don't Think These Words Mean What You Think They Do

from the if-you-can-redefine-the-language dept

For the last few weeks I'd been meaning to write up a "dictionary" of how the NSA translates certain words, completely different from the way any other English speaker does, in order to argue that what it does with its surveillance programs is "legal" under the law. I hadn't gotten around to it because every time I started, it seemed like there was more breaking news. Thankfully Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman from the ACLU beat me to it, and put together a fantastic NSA lexicon, which highlights how the NSA has simply changed the meaning of many basic English words in order to argue that their efforts are, in fact, legal and above board. You can and should read the full and detailed explanations that Jaffer and Kaufman have put together for each word, but I'm going to take their same list and simplify it down a little. In bold is the word, and after it is what the NSA thinks it means.
  • Surveillance: When we actually access full content of your calls and emails, but not when we access all the data about who you talk to, where you are and what you do.
  • Collect: When we run a search on data we collected er... "stored for safe keeping."
  • Relevant: Everything. It might become relevant in the future, thus it's relevant today.
  • Targeted: As long as we're collecting the info for an investigation that involves a "target" then any info is "targeted" even if that info has nothing to do with the "target."
  • Incidental: Everything that we collect... er... store that may become "relevant" at some point but isn't now even though it's "targeted." In short: everything.
  • Inadvertent: Stuff we did on purpose on a massive scale that looks bad when exposed publicly.
  • Minimize: A term we use to pretend that we delete information on Americans, but which has many exceptions, including if you encrypted your communications or if we have a sneaking suspicion that you're 51% foreign based on a hunch.
  • No: When said to Congress in response to questions about whether we collect data on millions of Americans, this means "fuck you."
I would imagine there are a few more words that will need to be added at some point.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Jim, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 6:49am

    Translations

    per the Closer: Thank You can have many meanings, including FU

     

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  2.  
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    ThatFatMan (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 6:54am

    Classified

    1. A tool used for feeding limited information to congress under the guise of "oversight".

    2. Stuff the public already knows but we still don't want to tell them anyway.

     

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

  3.  
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    Machin Shin (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:06am

     

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

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:07am

    This dictionary lacks Oversight.

     

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

  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:07am

    I think Lewsis Caroll got there first.

    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.
    "

     

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

  6.  
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    TheLastCzarnian (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:18am

    One more fot the lexicon

    My Grandpa always used to say, "when someone says, "trust me", they really mean, "fuck you.""

    The NSA and Congress are a shining example of this.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:19am

    War: Peace;
    Freedom: Slavery;
    Ignorance: Strength.

     

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

  8.  
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    Pixelation, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:46am

    Constitution; That worthless piece of paper, meant to be ignored.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:49am

    Re:

    Oversight: Having someone that can tell other people there are no abuses going on no matter what is really happening.

     

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

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:54am

    * Direct access (to Google and Facebook servers):

    Oddly, that one is straightforward, using the XKeyScore front-end.



    When you think surveillance, think Google!

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:56am

    Follow the leader

    Isn't this just following in the foot steps of the U.S. Supreme Court? Remember Obamacare, where USSC redefined the word "taxation" from the centuries established meaning of "giving money to the government" to "giving money to anyone you are told to give it to, by the government". So why can't the NSA or anyone else with a lot of guns/bombs/drones do the same?

     

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  12.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:02am

    Re:

    Just like the agency that uses it.

     

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

  13.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:06am

    This is fun. Here are a few more:

    Least Untruthful Answer: Being econmical with the truth.
    FISA Court: Oversight.
    Patriot Act: Our justification and authority to store all relevant data that protects you from terrorists and the boogyman.
    Mark Udall (D-Colo) and/or Ron Wyden (D-Ore): Assholes that simply do not understand the need for our programs.
    GCHQ: See, other democratic countries do what we do. What’s the big deal?
    Legal: Whatever we decide would look like we are doing to prevent terrorism, child abuse and warts.
    Senate Intelligence Committee: This is the committee that we give the least untruthful answers to when they ask about our programs.
    Edward Snowden: Satan.

     

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

  14.  
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    Pixelation, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:13am

    Least untruth; I got busted.

     

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

  15.  
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    techflaws (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Re: * Direct access (to Google and Facebook servers):

    When you think OOTB, think Bullshit (and clock on report).

     

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

  16. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: * Direct access (to Google and Facebook servers):

    @"techflaws"

    When you think "techflaws", think vacuous one-liner ad hom.

     

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

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:08am

    Re: Classified

    Classified is:

    2. Information not expected to be seen in a positive light if it is distributed.

    1. Something of a nature that could make someone we like not included under 1 look bad.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:35am

    Re:

    Oversight: Meeting with PR-department.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    stockholderssyndrome, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Re: This is fun. Here are a few more:

    Hollywood:We Have Money , We Win

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    DCX2, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Re:

    Oversight: See definition of "Overlook". Look, sight, it's all the same thing...

     

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

  21.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    You, sir, are doing it right! I hope it reaches the funniest of the week ;)

     

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

  22.  
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    DOlz (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:10am

    Re: Classified

    3. A license to lie.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:20am

    Re: * Direct access (to Google and Facebook servers):

    You sound like the kind of guy that would argue we should ban cameras to avoid government surveillance. No thanks. Let's just stop the government from using the tools rather than breaking all the tools just because the government can use them too.

     

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

  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:53am

    P-Cooker - No way in hell I'm typing that out.

     

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

  25.  
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    McCrea (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    Oversight

    Having established a secret court to consider whether each and every usage is both legal and constitutional before deciding to approve such usages in all case.

     

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

  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 4:01pm

    Re:

    constitution; Obstacle or Hurdle

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Re:

    2. An impeedment to be over come

     

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

  28.  
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    techflaws (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: * Direct access (to Google and Facebook servers):

    And yet, only your vacuous one-liner ad homs are reported. It's almost too easy making fun of you ;)

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 4th, 2013 @ 7:03pm

    Re:

    Privacy Policy: It is our policy that you have no privacy.

     

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

  30.  
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    Jan Bilek (profile), Aug 4th, 2013 @ 11:55pm

    This is totalitarianism

    This seems really important to me and not at all funny. I grew up in a totalitarian regime and this kind of re-defining common language was one of the most powerful tools the regime could use to retain power and keep people in constant fear. For example the crime of 'disruption of public order' could be used to put basically anybody to jail because the term could be twisted to fit any behaviour that the regime did not like - for example when you criticised some official or communist party member or complained about something publicly.

    Actually I believe that the ability of the government or any other group of people to redefine common language and inability of people to force government to use their version of language means that the power distribution in society is seriously skewed and therefore this is a strong sign of failing democracy. It's really scary to observe that in the US

     

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

  31.  
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    DannyB (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 5:56am

    Targeted

    Targeted: As long as we're collecting the info for an investigation that involves a potential future "target" . . . .

     

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


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