How Can NSA Surveillance Leaks Both Be No Big Deal And Put Us All In Danger?

from the do-tell dept

As the NSA and the administration continue to seek to spin the fallout from the leaks that revealed some of the overreaching surveillance efforts of the NSA, what’s incredible is how self-contradictory the statements are, even when coming from the same source. The go-to defender of the program has been Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has tried arguing both that the leaks and these programs are no big deal and that they present a grave danger to intelligence operations. It’s incredible.

First, there’s playing it down as no big deal:

In a statement issued Saturday, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. described PRISM as “an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision.”

“PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program,” the statement said.

Hmm. So if it’s no big deal, and all they’re doing is facilitating statutorily authorized collection of data, why all the secrecy? Why not be transparent about all of that? And, also, if it’s just keeping track of all the legally obtained stuff, why then would he also say the following:

“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.

And later, he claimed that the leaker (this was before Snowden revealed himself) had “chosen to violate a sacred trust for this country” and that the leaks “affects the safety and security of this country.”

I can’t see any way to put together the earlier statements with the later statements that makes any sense at all. If all they were doing is analyzing statutorily authorized data, then there shouldn’t be any concern. We’d expect the NSA to have a computer system to do exactly that, right? So… um… why is it damaging to the nation and putting us all at risk? It seems more likely that the truth is that what was revealed wasn’t just a simple system for collecting data, as we can see, but rather just how much information the NSA is gathering up into its huge databases. Furthermore, the idea that this puts us in danger is, frankly, insulting. Most folks involved in terrorist activity already assume their phone calls are being tracked, so it’s not like this is going to change their tactics.

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Comments on “How Can NSA Surveillance Leaks Both Be No Big Deal And Put Us All In Danger?”

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Robert (profile) says:


It means it is not a big deal that the public is in danger. Because that danger is the erosion of civil liberties under the false-veil of security.

If Clapper really wanted to make America safe, he’d get control of the corporations whom are exploiting countries around the world, using US soldiers and diplomats as their proxy. Of course it’s all in the name of profits. Profits for military equipment, profits for security companies, profits for natural resource companies (oil, metals, etc..), agricultural via food services (McD’s harvests cows on their farms in Africa, or at least they used to), etc..

Stop that and you’ll stop the terrorist threats. Seriously, do you think Osama would have wanted to attack the US if they were not meddling in Middle Eastern affairs? Some would say “they hate we are free” but that’s total bullshit. They hate your interference!

That’s how you can have security and liberty co-existing, by NOT giving a reason for security in the first place!

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Guess same way Google both SPIES and "serves".

Google’s “agenda,” such as it is, is mere filthy lucre. That, and technological advancement for its own sake, i.e. because “shiny!”

They make money from advertising and marketing, hence the data mining. They’re not a threat, as such, just a minor nuisance when they serve ads on us based on our imagined preferences (they usually get mine wrong).

Settle down and take your meds, Cathy.

This is Cathy:

jameshogg says:

Re: Guess same way Google both SPIES and "serves".

When the government starts using DRM to gather this data, you will probably come up with the most ridiculous amateur-psychoanalysis ever:

“Government tendencies to overreach their powers by using DRM through corporation backdoors, are NOT in fact due to a long history of states trying to exert their powers using whatever means necessary… but are instead down to, wait for it, pirates. Pirates who DARE to demonstrate that DRM is a utopian fantasy. Aren’t I a genius?”

You should surely see how I, as a materialist, am perfectly entitled to treat this view in the same way I treat the Creationist view of the world?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Is anyone else looking at this and thinking, “this is what the endgame looks like”?

As in, the reason all of these leaks are coming out now is because the powers that be are sufficiently entrenched and secure that they don’t really think that having this information come out will accomplish anything that can stop them now…

Shadow-Slider says:

Incredibly Cynical

Here is an incredibly cynical idea: the U.S. federal government is the least corrupt in the world. Every other government doing the same thing, the difference is a few people in the U.S. who have security clearance do not trust the government whereas everywhere else the everyone with security clearance trust their government implicitly.

Anonymous Coward says:

“How Can NSA Surveillance Leaks Both Be No Big Deal And Put Us All In Danger?”
When the people in power spies on the peons it’s no big deal in their minds.
When the people in power gets revealed spying on the peons they get in danger of losing elections, careers, money, etc.
And that’s why it’s both “No Big Deal” and “Very Dangerous” at the same time.

JustMe (profile) says:

You weren't SUPPOSED to put his two statements next to each other

“But but *sputter* You mean that the two different information channels BOTH reached the public? No no no, that’s not right at all. The ‘gut wrenching’ stuff was for the Grand Jury!” Clapper, J. June 10, 2013

Also, on an unrelated note. Adding an ‘e’ at the end of Grand makes the ‘Grande Jury’ seem all old timey and less intimidating, like ‘ice cream shoppe’ – so Snowden has got that going for him.

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