NSA Recruiters Get Smacked Down By University Of Wisconsin Students

from the work-for-the-nation's-most-hated-employer! dept

I’m not sure what the NSA recruiters were expecting when they made a recruiting trip to the University of Wisconsin, but I’m sure the following wasn’t it. Maybe they thought they wouldn’t be challenged. The sort of students looking to work with the NSA would presumably have had a healthy deference to authority drilled into them since an early age. Maybe they thought that any challenges could be waved away with a simple refusal for “security reasons.” Maybe they thought the attending instructor would attempt to moderate the discussion.

None of that happened.

The student who transcribed the recording of the recruiters’ visit thought there might be a bit more discussion about current events, and how Snowden’s actions had affected recruiting and the agency itself. Instead, more time was spent trying to paint the NSA employees as a fun-loving bunch who spy all day before heading out to blow off steam getting drunk, wearing costumes and singing karaoke. (I am not making this up.)

One of the recruiters discussed how they tend to socialize after work, dressing up in costumes and getting drunk (referenced below). I can imagine that also exerts a lot of social pressure and works as a kind of social closure from which it would be difficult to escape.

Yes, NSA agents are human beings and will relax like other humans do once off the clock. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the recruiters seemed unwilling to be dragged into a discussion of the actual “job,” and the repercussions of the work they do. Instead of meeting the questions head on, they both made the rather poor decision to play word games with linguistic students.

Students Question the NSA at Recruiting Session by Madiha

Here are few of the highlights.

Student A (female): I have a lifestyle question that you seem to be selling. It sounds more like acolonial expedition. You know the “globe is our playground” is the words you used, the phrasing that you used and you seem to be saying that you can do your work. You can analyze said documents for your so-called customers but then you can go and get drunk and dress up and have fun without thinking of the repercussions of the info you’re analyzing has on the rest of the world. I also want to know what are the qualifications that one needs to become a whistleblower because that sounds like a much more interesting job. And I think the Edward Snowdens and the Bradley Mannings and Julian Assanges of the world will prevail ultimately.

NSA_M: I’m not sure what the –

Me: The question here is do you actually think about the ramifications of the work that you do, which is deeply problematic, or do you just dress up in costumes and get drunk?

NSA_M: We take it very seriously that when we give info to our policy makers that we do give it to them in the right context so that they can make the best decision with the best info available.

Student B: Is that what Clapper was doing when he perjured himself in front of Congress? Was he giving accurate information when he said we do not collect any intelligence on the US citizens that it’s only occasionally unintentionally or was he perjuring himself when he made a statement before Congress under oath that he later declared to be erroneous or at least, untruthful the least truthful answer? How do you feel personally having a boss whose comfortable perjuring himself in front of Congress?

NSA_F: Our director is not general Clapper.

Student B: General Alexander also lied in front of Congress.

NSA_F: I don’t know about that.

Student B: Probably because access to the Guardian is restricted on the NSA’s computers. I am sure they don’t encourage people like you to actually think about these things.

Me: Right, but you’re here recruiting so you’re selling the organization. I mean I’m less interested in what your specialized role is within in the NSA. I don’t care. The fact is you’re here presenting a public face for the NSA and you’re trying to sell the organization to people that are as young as high schoolers and trying to tell us that this is an attractive option in a context in which we clearly know that the NSA has been telling us complete lies. So, I’m wondering is that a qualification? [ref. to earlier question: “So, this is a job for liars?”]

NSA_F: I don’t believe the NSA is telling complete lies. And I do believe that you know, people can, you can read a lot of different things that are portrayed as fact and that doesn’t make them fact just because they’re in newspapers.

Who knows what song you have to belt out to shake off something like this, but whatever it was, I’m sure recruiters M and F were at least a half-dozens sheets to the wind when they did it. It’s tough to find a fiery, angst-unloading track written from the perspective of The Man, so perhaps they settled for a quiet duet of Radiohead’s “Fitter, Happier,” a song most normal people don’t find aspirational.

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Comments on “NSA Recruiters Get Smacked Down By University Of Wisconsin Students”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Bruised and beaten the NSA recruiters retreated to their lair and licked their wounds, where they would usually dress up in costumes and get drunk. They would get those filthy students, they swore. After all, there were probably a few incriminating downloads they could find.

Meanwhile in Australia the solar panel troll darryl crawled out of his toilet home and beat his chest in righteous moral fury. Someday Australia would reinstate spying and he would once again be declared to have above Australian average intelligence.

out_of_the_blue says:

Spooks are liars. Here's Schmidt of Google LYING:

Schmidt: ‘Google doesn’t do data mining’


If you’ve ever seen real live spooks — not just the kids they hire to snoop low-level — they’re not gregarious party animals, but creepy: either rat-face weaseals or big melon heads like Hayden,

Schmidt is such a stereotype that lacks only silver skull symbols on his jacket collar. You just know he has an actual SS uniform in his closet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Spooks are liars. Here's Schmidt of Google LYING:

First, nobody said anything about Google, you really have to stop trying to drag that into the conversation, nobody cares, except people trying to call you out on it.

Second, spooks come in all shapes and sizes, perhaps the most dangerous ones are those who don’t look the part.

Third, do you ever notice that NOBODY ever agrees with you, except for the other trolls?

dennis deems (profile) says:

Re: Re: Spooks are liars. Here's Schmidt of Google LYING:

Third, do you ever notice that NOBODY ever agrees with you, except for the other trolls?


Actually, it’s not true that nobody ever agrees with him but the other trolls. It happens once in a while, like a lunar eclipse or a planetary alignment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Spooks are liars. Here's Schmidt of Google LYING:

I hope you realize that posts in this vein really contradict your posts about five strikes and DRM on digital content. Policies such as those are completely at odds with the apparent track of anonymity you’re espousing here to make a jab at google. I don’t expect you to comprehend the connection though, holding two diametrically opposed positions seems to be your super-power.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, it must be a burden on their conscious to violate our rights all day long, sifting through private info in order to seperate people into predefined groups. Agents need to wind down and become inebriated to ignore the impending disaster this is all leading towards. I’m sure that their superiors have convinced them that they’ll be safe and secure once they trash our economy, but then government lying is contagious.

Someday they’ll learn the hard way that there is no honor among immoral crooks and liars, no matter what their attire nor the emblem they wear.

TasMot (profile) says:

Re: Live with Themselves

You have to look at their “approach” to the problem and the insidious misdirection that come with it. They are “protecting the people”. The trouble is that the Trade Center bombing played right into their hands. It resulted in a public outrage (by the news services) to “save us from those bad people”. Now, by removing our constitutional rights they can now “save us” from those bad guys. You see, they did it at “our request”. The trouble is that they have moved into the “bad guys” slot. At least Hitler and Mussolini didn’t have to bother with that pesky Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The NSA has just taken one little step at a time to erode away those pesky rights until now they feel the “piss and vinegar” and can do anything they want because they have a secret court that will pass any ruling they want to make it legal with no Congressional or public oversight. Of course they didn’t count on so very many whistleblowers who would feel the righteous weight of the Constitution pressing on their conscience. So much so that they have given up even more of their freedoms because of being in the wrong place at the right time to uphold our freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

akp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Live with Themselves

Don’t lay this all at the NSA’s feet. If you’re going to invoke Godwin’s Law, then we might as well go on and say the NSA is “just following orders.” Because they are.

The NSA probably IS just an information-gathering organization. They’re not the CIA, they’re not the military.

They’re gathering what the Administration(s) told them to gather. This is at the feet of the Executive Branch… Bush and Obama.

The NSA is violating our rights, but at who’s behest?.

People like to blame the POTUS for a lot of ills, many of which aren’t things that office can control. This, though, is entirely in the POTUS’ hands. One of them started it, and each successive POTUS has gone along or expanded it.

The NSA isn’t the Big Bad here, they’re just the minions.

TasMot (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Live with Themselves

That argument (I was just doing what I was told) has failed for years with parents of preschoolers and with following the generals’ orders in the military. EVERY government organization and law enforcement agency is responsible for supporting the Constitution. End of discussion. This country is founded on those principles and no organization is exempt. What you are really saying then is that the President of the United States has violated his Oath of Office by ordering the violation of the Rights of the Citizens of the United States by ordering the NSA to violate the rights of the US Citizens. You know, that part where the president swears to uphold the Constitution of the United States!:

?I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.?

See here for reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_office_of_the_President_of_the_United_States#Oath_mishaps.
An illegal order does not make anything the NSA did now legal. They SHOULD know better. No agency of the US Government should be exempt from supporting the Constitution or any laws in support of the Constitution. The President, both Houses of Congress and all law enforcement agencies are specifically bound to not change the Constitution. Only the people of the United States by a two thirds majority vote may change the Constitution. Unless so changed, ALL agencies of all of the governments in the United States must abide by the Constitution.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Live with Themselves

The NSA probably IS just an information-gathering organization. They’re not the CIA, they’re not the military.

True, but you say this as if it minimizes the role of the NSA. Information gathering is even more powerful and dangerous than the operational entities.

The NSA isn’t the Big Bad here, they’re just the minions.

The NSA certainly is a big bad here. Given that they regularly hide information from, and lie to, the people who are theoretically supervising them, it’s disingenuous to describe them as simply being “minions”.

That said, there isn’t only one bad actor here. In my opinion, the NSA is being evil and we shouldn’t let them off the hook for that. But everyone else involved with this (the executive, legislative, and judicial branches) are being evil as well. All of their feet should be in the fire.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Live with Themselves

Who’s the Big Bad, then? Obama?
He was singing a very different tune before the elections. Do you honestly think he changed it all by himself?

IMHO, I don’t think there is a single identifiable Big Bad (Brother), just the collective and self-reinforcing corruption of formerly (and some possibly still) well-meaning people by the toxic proximity of too much power.


Re: Re: Re:2 Live with Themselves

If it’s part of the executive branch, then Obama’s in charge. Full stop. No excuses.

There are certain things that the other branches of government to do to get in the way of POTUS. Unless you can cite one, then this all rests on Obama. The fact that Bush started it is not a sufficient excuse.

Don’t try to make up excuses for Obama acting like any other middle aged white guy.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Live with Themselves

If it’s part of the executive branch, then Obama’s in charge. Full stop. No excuses.

Not quite. If you’re looking for a place for the buck to stop, it would more properly be in Congress. It’s Congress that authorized the existence of the court, it’s Congress that created the laws permitting all of this misbehavior, and it’s Congress that is charged with oversight.

You’re right insofar as this stuff requires the complicity of the judicial and executive branches as well — any of the three branches can bring this to an end — but the whole thing is Congressional at its core.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Live with Themselves

“but the whole thing is Congressional at its core.”

But the Congressman who wrote the bill says this was not his intention. And certainly, the Patriot Act does not REQUIRE the NSA to spy on everyone. It takes a special reading of the bill and the Constitution to even attempt to justify it.

So most of the blame goes to the executive branch, which is actually doing the spying.

Think of it this way. If tomorrow Obama used the War Powers Act to bomb France for no reason, would you blame Congress for passing the War Powers Act which allows him to do this under US law, or would you blame Obama?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Live with Themselves

If tomorrow Obama used the War Powers Act to bomb France for no reason, would you blame Congress for passing the War Powers Act which allows him to do this under US law, or would you blame Obama?

I would blame both, just as I do with this NSA stuff.

The bottom line is that, secret interpretations or not, this is law that was written and passed by Congress, gets regularly renewed by Congress, and is Congress’ responsibility.

That some Congressmen are saying that they never intended the law to be used this way fails on three counts: first, that when the laws were being debated, everyone was explicitly warned that this sort of thing would happen — so intended or not, they knew. Second, the keep renewing it. Third, they could correct this misuse by correcting the law — which is something that they don’t appear interested in doing.

Anonymous Coward says:

If more students like these are starting to question the role of government in our lives then the NSA is going to have a major recruiting problem. ON the other hand, I hope these students start working at the NSA because then they can release all of the documents about our government’s two-faced attitudes toward the American People and our allies.

While Julian Assange and Bradley Manning handled it the wrong way, I think that Edward Snowden may have just given the American People someone to stand behind and to fight for.

If President Obama, the U.S. Congress and the liberal establishment in this country were smart (and that includes the liberal media), they would hand Snowden a presidential pardon and reward him for revealing to the public about this secret spying program.

As it stands now, the only thing that President Obama, the Democrats and their liberal supporters are doing is turning Snowden into a martyr for a cause that every American believes in.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I was with you up until the whole ‘THANKS OBAMA!” portion of the message.
Let us be very clear.
This spying is not a Democrat or Republican thing.
It is not a Liberal or Conservative thing.

It is the result of terrified people giving power without question to the Government and not bothering to trust be verify that they are still acting in our best interests.

This is pouring money into the pockets of contributors offering snake oil fixes to imagined problems.
This is why Freedom has a price, and people have been unwilling to hold up their portion to be vigilant and speak out when they see things being done wrong in their name.

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