Declassified Documents Prove NSA's Bulk Metadata Collections Completely Unnecessary

from the but...-but...-haystacks! dept

Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have posted a statement in response to the NSA's compelled release of declassified documents. The statement points out that Americans will now have a better grasp on the size of the "iceberg" that once lay hidden below the barely-visible tip.

Wyden and Udall go on to state that what's been released in these documents indicates that the bulk metadata collection programs the NSA swears are so essential to its counterterrorism efforts are clearly unnecessary.

In addition to providing further information about how bulk phone records collection came under great FISA Court scrutiny due to serious and on-going compliance violations, these documents show that the court actually limited the NSA’s access to its bulk phone records database for much of 2009. The court required the NSA to seek case-by-case approval to access bulk phone records until these compliance violations were addressed. In our judgment, the fact that the FISA Court was able to handle these requests on an individual basis is further evidence that intelligence agencies can get all of the information they genuinely need without engaging in the dragnet surveillance of huge numbers of law-abiding Americans.
All the violations of civil liberties have likewise been unnecessary and the supposed high wire act of "balancing" privacy concerns with national security is swiftly being proven to be just that: an act. If the NSA was able to still operate under these restrictions, its claims that only huge haystacks have the capability of producing needles is demonstrably false. General Alexander's desire to grab all the data has had a markedly deleterious effect on the agency's ability to operate within the guidelines set down by the FISA court.

Udall and (especially) Wyden have been muted in their attempts to warn US citizens about the data harvesting occurring just out of sight. But Ed Snowden's leaks have forced the issue into broad daylight, vindicating these senators' rigid stance against the increasing reach of our nation's security agencies.

As they say, the NSA's bulk records collection is not only a "significant threat to the constitutional liberties" of American citizens, it's also a "needless" one. The second half of that statement is the most damaging. Abuses, overreach and data collections amassed for the sake of collecting data -- an ultimately all for nothing.



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  1.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 6:43am

    Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    I am so sad that more people are just not that upset by all these revelations. Why is there not protests in the streets all over the world about this but they feel the world should stop because one dumb ass police officer arrested a person of race in a questionable situation.

    The NSA (aka Big Brother) is aware of this. They know that if they can feed enough BS to obfuscate the whole situation to the American people it will all just go away, in time.

    Sad.

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 8:05am

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    Anesthetized by all the candy they can buy. When the power to buy the gadgets and stuff is gone they'll wake up to a bitter reality I guess. But I'm optimistic, I think we are at a turning point and people will wake up.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    Yeah, but how are they supposed to spy on people they wouldn't be allowed to spy on under normal non-dragnet surveillance, such as politicians, judges, corporations, and so on?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 8:16am

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    Sadly, not many people are actually aware of the NSA leaks. Mainstream media has been pushing the Syria conflict hard and barely mentioning the NSA leaks at all. Everyone I speak to who aren't tech savvy has barely any knowledge on them.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 9:00am

    All exceptions to core democratic principles must be cancelled and denied

    It becomes clearer and clearer that counter-terrorism was just the foot in the door for an all-out intelligence venture.

    It illustrates by that much how the core founding democratic and human rights principles should suffer no loosening, no exception, however big the temptation it may be after a shock as great as 9/11 to allow it...

     

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  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 9:09am

    Do we really know 'the size of the "iceberg" '?

    Or getting just the impression intended from what keeps looking like a limited hangout?

    Disambiguate: "Udall and (especially) Wyden have been muted in their attempts" -- Just doesn't convey what I assume you intend: nearly silenced by pro-NSA foes.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 9:10am

    this information was needed to stop terrorism about as much as i needed a belt to hold elastic waist trousers! they weren't, in my opinion, even interested in terrorism or terrorists. they have only been interested in the ordinary people all along, simply because they are a lot easier to track, to keep tabs on, as they dont normally encrypt communications and BECAUSE THEY TRUSTED THE GOVERNMENT TO PROTECT THEIR PRIVACY AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH, NOT DESTROY IT!! if while they were spying on all us ordinary people, they happened to come across a terrorist plot, so much the better! that enabled them to add credence to the bullshit excuses they kept and keep using, even now!!

     

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  8.  
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    Michael, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    Dear US Citizens,

    We regret to inform you that we completely misunderstood. We had no idea we needed to provide a reason that is was necessary for us to be spying on you. It is our intention to correct this mistake as quickly as possible.


    - NSA

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 10:22am

    I can understand the need to debunk the "Spying is to go after terrorists" myth. What the spying is really about is political blackmail, corporate espionage, and oppressing dissident movements.

    Hopefully one day we can start focusing on what the global spying 'really' represents.

    I suppose it's necessary to debunk the 'global spying is to catch terrorists' myth, before we can move onto the real conversation of what global spying 'really' represents.

    I doubt Edward Snowden, released all these documents into the public domain because he was worried about the fight on terror. Snowden, understood what these global spy programs 'really' represented.

    An assault on humanity's freedom. That's the endgame of these global spy programs. If you don't believe this to be true, then the 'terror' wool has been pulled over your eyes and is blinding you. That's exactly what spy agencies and governments want you to think.

     

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  10.  
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    Not So Anonymous (NSA), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:30am

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    It's easy to scare sheep, and make them give up their rights for a false sense of security.
    More people are pissed and interested to read about about Ben Affleck playing Batman than about their right being slowly stolen and eroded by government.
    It is very sad.

    Mass media needs to make a much bigger deal about NSA and other rights infringements.

     

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  11.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:46am

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    Unfortunately it's mostly due to knowledge, or in this case lack of, regarding all the NSA's activities.

    The government's PR department(that disguises itself as 'independent news agencies') has for obvious reasons done their absolute best to not even mention a word about the NSA or it's actions, so people aren't up in arms and protesting about it because they simple don't know it's happening.

     

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  12.  
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    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    I am so sad that more people are just not that upset by all these revelations.
    A cynic might say that this is part of the reason for the huge debates about Syria. It smacks a little of "Wag The Dog" to me...
    "Hey! Look over there at that dramatic war and pay no attention to the fact we totally ignore your rights and have broken the internet..."

     

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  13.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    It gives me some hope when I see the replies to my comment. But...not enough hope.

     

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  14.  
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    Mega1987 (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    that statement is true...

    but regaining/repairing the TRUST that the people gave you is goddamn harder to do than breaking it in the first place, which is alot more easier to do than to ask forgiveness.

     

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  15.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    Yeah Politicians always use a cause to distract from the real issue with what they are doing.

     

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  16.  
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    McCrea (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission

    Mom says it's nothing new. Govt always been spying.

     

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  17.  
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    GEMont, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:56pm

    "Abuses, overreach and data collections amassed for the sake of collecting data -- an ultimately all for nothing."

    This of course assumes that none of this information is being used for such things as blackmail/extortion, or simply to gather data on competing corporation's progress in fields of technology and trade, etc..

    As has been noted on this site numerous times, when an organization works in secret, its operations will eventually be abused - used for nefarious and illegal purposes, since there is no consequences due to its secrecy.

    Whenever an operation works outside of the law, but under guise of secrecy, its members will begin quickly to feel invulnerable- above the law - and begin to use the operation's ability to do things secretly, for personal ends.

    How many years has the NSA been doing this?
    How many years has it been abusing its own rules??
    How many of these abuses have gone un-discovered??
    How many abuses have occurred that have received extra consideration for cover-up by the agency due to their obvious illegal nature?
    For each 1000 employees, how many criminal splinter cells might form specifically to carry out clandestine illegal operations such as extortion, outside of the agency's view and knowledge, but utilizing the agency's technology??

    Perhaps we should be asking simply, what use COULD the NSA, and/or its employees, be putting all of this "haystack" of data to?

    I'm certain that if you can imagine a use for such data, the NSA could also. The only difference is that there is absolutely nothing stopping the NSA from initiating such usages secretly.

    One must remember that victims of blackmail hardly ever talk about the fact they are being blackmailed. After all, they are capitulating because the information held over their heads is embarrasing or potentially threatening to their liveliehoods, family, income, etc..

    This makes blackmail, via communications interception, one of the most lucrative and care-free criminal activities conceivable.

     

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