A Tour Through The Bizarre Mind Of An NSA Defender: Discrediting Activists By Using Their Porn Surfing Is Just Like Journalism!

from the i-don't-even... dept

Oh, Stewart Baker. It's getting to the point where I feel like we may even need a "Oh, Stewart Baker" topic here on Techdirt, given how often we seem to feel the need to utter that phrase. Baker, if you haven't been playing along with the home version, is the former NSA and DHS official who really likes to support the ability of the government to spy on everyone and really seems to dislike civil liberties. Oh, and he has this incredible way of making statements so blatantly ridiculous that, personally, I find it scary that the government apparently trusted him in multiple really important positions. Let's go through some of the examples before getting to the latest wacky claim.
  • Right after the Boston Marathon bombing, Baker claimed that it proved civil liberties defenders like the EFF and ACLU were wrong about surveillance cameras in saying that they're not very useful at stopping crime. And, of course, they didn't stop crime. Also, their main complaint is with government surveillance cameras, and those weren't the ones used to identify the Boston bombers.
  • Next, he argued that reporters like Glenn Greenwald and Bart Gellman, two of the three journalists who got original stashes of documents from Ed Snowden, weren't real journalists because they were "advocates." But, that's what a journalist should be: an advocate for truth and an informed public.
  • From there it started to get odder and odder. He blamed civil libertarians for 9/11, saying their whining about privacy resulted in the NSA not being able to spot the plot, despite the 9/11 Commission's report completely debunking such a claim. The failure to stop 9/11 wasn't because of limits on the government, but the failure to do things the government was allowed to do.
  • Next he attacked Senator Ron Wyden for trying to alert the public to the many things that the NSA was doing that were beyond what the public believed the law allowed. Baker called this "trolling for leaks," while everyone else recognized it as "telling us the government has secret laws it won't tell us about, which it uses to violate the Constitution."
  • Then there's the time he claimed that we should blame privacy rights advocates for having the TSA grope you at an airport. Without those pesky privacy folks, he argues, the TSA could just snoop through all your data first and not have to grab your crotch. Apparently, the complete set of possible options for airport security in the mind of Baker is: "violate your private info or get molested." That there might be other options -- even more effective ones -- doesn't even seem to be on the table.
  • Next up: the time he claimed that without the NSA spying on everyone, 9/11 happened, and that's all the proof he needs that spying on everyone is necessary to prevent the next 9/11. Got that? Apparently anything that wasn't in place at the time of 9/11 is fair game, because 9/11. For example: before 9/11, we didn't force everyone to walk around in public naked, and 9/11 happened. Clearly the "proof is compelling" that everyone should have to walk around naked. #StewartBakerLogic.
  • More recently, he tried to argue that the NSA's "minimization" procedures, which require them to stop watching "US persons" in certain limited situations caused 9/11, despite the fact that the example he cited wasn't actually subject to minimization, and was the result of a failure of government spooks to take action, not because they didn't have the information, but because they had too much of it to know what to focus on.
  • And, then, with the latest leak of the fact that the NSA plans to discredit non-terrorist activists by revealing their porn surfing habits, Baker staunchly defended the program as being better than being killed by drones. Because, clearly, those are the only two options. Either the NSA kills non-terrorist activists they don't like or they sift through their web surfing to reveal their porn habits.
You may notice a bizarre pattern in many of these, in which Baker leaps to an either/or claim when a whole multitude of other options exist. Either way, he's since tried to defend his statements concerning the porn exposure by noting that the reporter, Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post, left out the key point he tried to make repeatedly: that what the NSA is talking about doing with these advocates is no different than what Glenn Greenwald has done in shaming politicians by showing how their actions do not match up with their words.

Think about that for a second. He's arguing an equivalence between government spooks snooping through all of your data and using it to embarrass people they don't like with a journalist reporting on information gleaned through journalistic activity. If journalists could magically tap into the NSA's database, he might have a (weak) point. If journalists were able to hack into the internet backbone and scoop up all data on anyone, he might have a point. If journalists had the ability to arrest/detain/kill you, he might have a point. But, you know, the one time we know of where journalists were caught hacking into computer systems to get private info, it created a massive scandal that brought down a well-established news operation.

That Baker can't see the difference between having access to that corpus of data through questionable means and journalism is, well, stunning. It gives you a picture into the mind of an NSA defender, however. It's a picture where he will cling to and distort pretty much any argument to try to defend the indefensible.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Erik Grant, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 8:46am

    I didn't read this entire article, because I was stopped at this line:


    9/11 wasn't caused by limits on the government, but their failure to do things they were allowed to do.


    9/11 was caused by terrorist monsters hell bent on destroying our way of life. The government may have failed to detect and foil the plot, but that's worlds away from being the cause for it. Stating it the way you have is extremely offensive.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 8:55am

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    RyanNerd (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 8:59am

    A three hour tour

    I don't think Stewart Baker is going to be getting off the island any time soon.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:03am

    Re:

    Actually...

    9/11 is caused because of U.S. interventionist policies in the Middle East for years, starting with the overthrow of the Iranian government in the 1950s, funding Al Queda against the Soviets in the 1960s, helping Saddam Hussein rise to power in the 1980s and giving him weapons of mass destruction to use in war against Iran in the 1980s, putting extreme sanctions on Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries in the 1990s, which forced women and children to starve to death while they cried for help from anyone who would listen, which led to people, desperate to get attention and strike back at their oppressors, to do a truly monstrous thing.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Re: A three hour tour

    OH, God, if only there was an island where such paradox crumple-zones could exist without dragging the rest of us down!

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    all your p3nis is belong to NSA, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:10am

    donkey & midget pron script addon

    Yes folks it will goto such places and download then delete
    donkey and midget pron all while you surf your regular pages

    when they come six ways to sundance at your for it you then record such and sue for slander and defamtion of character as they need to know its not what you viewed and it was an aim to expose you perverted sicko peeping tom pervert nsa govt workers.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:16am

    Response to: Erik Grant on Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 8:46am

    I'm offended by your attitude that 9/11 must be treated as a sacred cow. It's offensive to anyone that's a tru_American, that believes in the real America, not the GW version that we've been stuck with ever since. Although I guess it's the BH version now too.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re:

    9/11 is caused because of U.S.

    The middle-eastern islamic jihadists are not really moral persons in full control of their own actions.

    They have no choice. They can't do anything but hate and kill Americans.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:34am

    'Discrediting Activists By Using Their Porn Surfing Is Just Like Journalism!'

    which the White House is doing it's best to stop anyway! just like every other sort of privacy and freedom, journalism is being banned unless the report says what the government or it's 'stuck up the arse' industries want it to say!!

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Wow, you didn't even bother to read the rest of my reply, did you?

    Even if they hate Americans, the fact is, America has been over there, for decades, screwing with Middle East politics and policies and enforcing our will on them.

    They put together one major attack (9/11) with some other bombing attacks before-hand... and you see how much we hate them, for individual efforts and stuff that happens.

    Now then, imagine how THEY feel because, unlike single incidents, we're over there for DECADES doing the SAME. DAMN. THING. to them.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 9:57am

    "what the NSA is talking about doing with these advocates is no different than what Glenn Greenwald has done in shaming politicians by showing how their actions do not match up with their words."

    It seems I fail to see the ressemblance between asking the governement, which is supposedly put in place to represent the general public (or peraphs I misunderstood what democracy is all about) to be both open and truthfull about what it's doing on our behalf, and starting to shame individuals who are just that, individuals, who have their own personnal life.

    In the best scenario, every single citizen would be able to vote on every single issue, by both being informed of the issues, and being able to do so, but since that would be impractical, we elect people who, we hope, will represents our ideals, our values and make the best possible decision, for us, on our behalf. Who cares what they do in their bedroom, that's not what I elect them for...

    Maybe I need to get my hand on some more of that propaganda, so it all makes sense.

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Re:

    Fair point. The wording on that was awkward, though from the context, I think it was fairly obvious what was meant. Still, I've reworded that sentence slightly to make it clearer.

     

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

  13.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Boiling down a complex subject such as the motivations of those who hate the US to an overly simplistic, black-and-white (and incorrect) case of "they're irrational monsters" gives them a very real advantage. It's worth at least trying to understand the complex realities.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Even if they hate Americans, the fact is, America has been over there, for decades, screwing with Middle East politics and policies and enforcing our will on them.


    Of course, I'm agreeing with you. It's perfectly natural for the middle-easterners to hate and kill Americans.

    It's like a rattlesnake. You don't blame a rattler for striking a human. Not any more than you can blame a scorpion for stinging a person. Or venomous spiders. You can't blame them. They're just poisonous spiders.

    Rattlesnakes, scorpions and tarantulas have been created all in their own natures, responding to their environment and instincts. The middle-easterner just the same. The islamists cannot be anything other than captive to their region and its inexorable history.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    --logan--, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:25am

    "Real" Journalists

    If journalists could magically tap into the NSA's database, he might have a (weak) point.


    Maybe that's how they define "real" journalists that deserve constitutional protection: the ones they allow into their databases.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not even remotely close.

    Besides, other than the extremists, which exist in other religions, most Muslims, AKA, Islamists, are very peaceful people who want to practice their religion in peace and spread their beliefs everywhere.

    Much like Christians and other religions.

    So, please, don't try to say "they're nothing but evil and full of hatred for us" when that's not it at all.

    Ron Paul said it best "They don't hate us because we're free and prosperous, they hate us because we're interfering with their lives".

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 10:56am

    Alarm bells should be ringing with this article for all those who desire privacy and dislike spying.

    If in his mind it is ok to use porn to embarrass or discredit someone, exactly how far is it from that to blackmail? With the NSA bulk spying on everyone and with Snowdens' claim that pretty much all politicians and people of importance have been swooped up in all this, where does it end?

    No wonder the NSA has gotten all it wants and desires in legal protections and the ignoring of any laws it wants to break. Even Obama was claimed to have been spied on as a congressman thinking of the White House.

    If there was ever a wake up call, this is it.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Ignorant attitudes like this only serve to polarize things further which helps no one. Please don't try to help the people of the US as you are making things worse.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re:

    Actually, it goes back much farther than that. Much of it stems from the same unresolved conflicts that go back to the crusades that have been on going for centuries.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    9/11 was caused by the US foreign policy of the last 3 decades full stop.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: Re:

    False dilemma. It's completely possible and in fact more rational for both the US and the 'islamic jihadists' to be wrong. No one said they didn't have a choice what they said was the choice they made was obviously precipitated by US actions.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, arguing the US should take any responsibility for the consequences of US foreign policy is literally racism.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 11:41am

    9/11 wasn't caused by limits on the government, but their failure to do things they were allowed to do.

    Actually, it was caused by terrorists, and the reason it occurred was because the agencies failed to communicate with each other and effectively dropped the ball. So says the 9/11 commission report, so fuck this blowhard sack of shit.

     

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

  24.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    That would be why they dislike Christians and Israel, yeah, I can see that. But the direct cause of 9/11 was, as I pointed out, U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East since the 1950s.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 2:30pm

    Re:

    That's what it is, blackmail. The FBI tapped Martin Luther King Jr.'s phones and kept records of his extra-marital affairs, giving this information to his opponents in the political arena.

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    bobby b, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 6:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "They can't do anything but hate and kill Americans."

    And eat raisins. I'm told they love raisins.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 7:50pm

    Re: Re:

    Actually...

    9/11 was an inside job.

     

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

  28.  
    icon
    Tim Griffiths (profile), Dec 4th, 2013 @ 4:07am

    Re: Re:

    There you Americans go again, taking credit for everything. Just remember there wouldn't be an modern "Iraq" if the British hasn't been granted control of a nicely carved up chunk of the Ottoman Empire. All those nice straight state like lines that make up that part of the world are the results of good old fashioned actual empire, not like this modern hands off rubbish of yours!

    The whole political mess that you Johnny Come Latelies are so proud of is almost all grounded in actions of Imperial Europe and our tendency to screw over the natives and each other at the drop of a hat. You may well have buddied up to Saddam and his ilk but only after they had sized power through rallying support against the laughable transparent puppet Monarchies that had been set up under our rule.

    Joking aside the west has been almost literally fucking the region over since the Ottomans got caught up in the massive imperial dick waving contest that was World War 1. That makes it's nearly a century of almost continued western interference, America is the just the latest and currently most visible in a long line of people putting the boot in.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This