Other Government Agencies Wanted Access To NSA Surveillance Data For Other Investigations… Including Copyright Infringement

from the seriously-now? dept

Going all the way back to 2010, we’ve talked many times about how much of the “debate” over “cybersecurity” was really a kind of turf war between the Defense Department (really, the NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security, over who would control both the budgets and the information they were collecting. So it should come as little surprise to see the NY Times reporting that this turf war has been playing out behind the scenes with various other government agencies demanding access to all that sweet, sweet data it has on everyone for whatever their personal area of interest was — including:

…drug trafficking, cyberattacks, money laundering, counterfeiting and even copyright infringement

To its credit (and I can’t believe I’m saying that), it appears that the NSA has rejected most of these requests, saying that those other issues are not high enough of a priority and they don’t want to violate privacy rights (don’t laugh). Still, given how much pressure is coming from other agencies of the government, you have to expect that sooner or later the NSA will be pressured into opening up the data to other parts of the government. In fact, part of the concern about CISPA and other cybsersecurity legislation wasn’t just that it would put the NSA in control over such information, but that it also made it clear that government agencies would be free to share that data with each other, for almost any investigative purpose.

And, of course, that brings us to the “copyright infringement” bit. It’s no secret that different parts of the government — including the DOJ and ICE (a part of Homeland Security) have taken it upon themselves to act as if copyright infringement is a huge problem that they, personally, need to stop. The idea that agencies are even seeking access to the NSA’s data to deal with copyright infringement claims shows just how incredibly obsessed they are. Copyright shouldn’t even involve federal law enforcement in the first place, as it really should only be about civil cases between private parties. It was troubling enough that the government was deputizing itself to be copyright cops — but to find out that they also wanted to use the data the NSA collects (which is already of questionable legality) in order to further work on their copyright obsession is downright ridiculous.

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Comments on “Other Government Agencies Wanted Access To NSA Surveillance Data For Other Investigations… Including Copyright Infringement”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Talk about comedic court cases...

Given how the NSA treats all the data they scoop up as classified, even to the people it’s about, using that information as evidence in a court case would make for one strange trial…

Prosecutor: The accused, Redacted, is hereby accused of copyright infringement for downloading Redacted on the date of-
Judge: I’m sorry, but do you think this court is a comedy club to practice jokes in? Either take the case seriously, and read the filing correctly, or I’ll hold you in contempt of court.
Prosecutor: I am taking it seriously your honor, the evidence as filed by my client, and provided by… an anonymous third party has a number of bits redacted and covered over.
Judge: Let me see that…(Glances over the paper) How about that, you were right. I haven’t seen so many black marks since the Prenda lawyers took their bar re-certification exams.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Talk about comedic court cases...

+funny spree!

Imagine if they read that foia requests one reader wanted to duct tape in a cycle and fax back a while back. I mean, how do you read a page of black ink?

“Screw it!” said the judge as he stormed out of the court. A few weeks later he was found living in a trailer near Yellowstone fishing with pointy tree branches and smoking some native weed.

Loki says:

Re: Talk about comedic court cases...

Obviously, as the emerging DEA/SOD stories report and much like the NSA does to Congress, these agencies are just lying and making up stories about how they got their evidence.

I suspect that it is just a matter of time before other agencies like DOJ/ICE are outed as having gotten data from the NSA (despite their continued protests of “we don’t do that”).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Umm, ‘soon’? They’ve been doing that for decades now, and so far the masses have just ignored them. Between the massive hyperbole arguments they use(‘Downloading a song is just as bad as hijacking a car!’) and human nature, which states that sharing is good and is what enables culture to flourish and grow, their ‘arguments’ never seem to stand up to public scrutiny.

DCX2 says:

DEA's Special Operations Division

Just read about this today. DEA is given “anonymous tips”, such as “You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it”.

But you can’t use secret tips in Court, right? Well, says one former DEA agent, “It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean” – in a process called parallel construction.


out_of_the_blue says:

Hey, I've written that if Google's data on YOU PIRATES were turned over

it’s at least enough to get search warrant. Only real obstacle is that they don’t focus on you. To me, just Google collecting such data is a real threat to freedom — not that I’m for pirating — but you pirates still seem unable to look forward to when Google takes off its mask to reveal that the Data Monster is fully cooperating with Big Media


When you think surveillance, think Google!

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Hey, I've written that if Google's data on YOU PIRATES were turned over

Hey, OOTB: what about Facebook, or Twitter, or any other service that relies on user-submitted content and can potentially track you across multiple websites?

I don?t see you going after any of those, so until you do, quit singling out Google as the only problem in town.

Also: HOSTS file block on Google and all its services (including YouTube, Blogger, and Gmail), use HTTPS Everywhere, disable cookies, use DuckDuckGo. There, your Google problem is (mostly) solved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Hey, I've written that if Google's data on YOU PIRATES were turned over

Agreed, anyone really that concerned about privacy issues would almost certainly be worried first and foremost about Microsoft. After all it doesn’t matter what browser or websites one uses when there are ways to acquire that information at the operating system level.

Anonymous Coward says:

given the power they seem to have and how just about every other government in the world has bent over and took it up the rear end as soon as told to, i am surprised that the copyright infringement, certainly of the entertainments industries and Hollywood material, isn’t top of the list and all the really important, life-threatening stuff like drug trafficking, isn’t pushed further down. you only have to ask someone like Dodd and you will be told that ‘his’ industry is the life-blood of the USA (believe that whole heap of lies and bullshit if you like!)! it’s certainly financing the head of government and others and they were threatened that if they didn’t do as ordered, their funding could be withdrawn. why everyone has to penalise the rest of the world over a movie or some music is beyond me!

ss (profile) says:

And this, for me, encapsulates most of the issue in its entirety: If a government entity has these data then every other government department that sees value in these data will be after these data. It takes one tiny hole in the firewall to render it useless. The mere collection and retention is the existing hole and it can only get bigger.

“Turnkey tyranny” – Only there is no key to turn and there is no deadbolt.

America is fucked because we’re led, in fact, by a bunch of scared ass pussy cats, pussies who’ll shut down everything instead of work harder at achieving what they’re supposed to stand for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Do it. Share it and spread it all round

If the govt were honest about the total surveillance state they are working so hard to get implemented, they would share this data. Then the public would finally be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the reality that we live in- a surveillance state steadily moving towards police state. And they would get exactly what they deserve for their lack of vigilance. This is not just the judicial, legislative or executives fault we are in this reality today. It is also very much the fault of the general populace.

jameshogg says:

I actually cannot stop laughing.

When the NSA, with all its malware spreading, corporation colluding, secretive spying, encryption cracking, ISP collaborating, and this last bit is key, DRM hijacking, REJECTS your calls for a Luddite utopia, your philosophy is dead.

There is such a thing as a tipping point, and I think the NSA rejecting the chance to enforce copyright while it abuses every privacy moral out there tells you everything. It means it’s over.

And who is to say that the internet will stay the way it is now? What if in 20 or 30 years’ time the internet is ten thousand times faster and ten thousand times more anonymous? What, dear copyright believers, will you do then? Apart from bellowing your self-pitying Luddism left, right and centre?

I know what I will do as a radical crowdfunding supporter: rejoice at that ten-thousand-fold increase’s power to reap in much more crowdfunds much faster. Not a hint of Luddism exists in my philosophy.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

What if in 20 or 30 years’ time the internet is ten thousand times faster and ten thousand times more anonymous?

I have little doubt that the internet will eventually become effectively a locked-down broadcasting medium rather than the the public forum it is now, and it will be relegated to serving the same people and needs as cable television. When that happens, we will have to replace it with something else.

So I’d rephrase your question: What if in 20 or 30 years’ time the popular replacement for the internet is ten thousand times faster and ten thousand times more anonymous?

Anonymous Coward says:

It has always struck me as silly that the NSA needed the data to catch terrorists. Any terrorists worth his salt will use ways of communicating that escape the NSA dragnet – at the very least, until the attack has taken place.

But if the huge databases had been intended to go after the lesser drug dealers or the small-scale copyright infringers, now, then it starts to make much more sense…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

why shouldn’t law enforcement use the tools at its disposal

And that, right there, is a very good reason why the the NSA’s activities should not be allowed. Their special dispensation to spy into the private details of all of our lives inevitably become just about “law enforcement tool” — one that would be absolutely illegal if the law enforcement agencies themselves ran it.

Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

[blockquote]To its credit (and I can’t believe I’m saying that), it appears that the NSA has rejected most of these requests, saying that those other issues are not high enough of a priority and they don’t want to violate privacy rights (don’t laugh).[/blockquote]

Don’t be too quick to give them credit. You already know that aren’t concerned about privacy – except for theirs of course. A much more likely explanation is that it’s nothing more than a power game.

Why give away what you can trade for almost anything you want? This is the most valuable commodity on the political market. It’s like an unlimited supply of IOUs from every other branch of government. The only value this has anything to do with is trade value.

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