Pro-NSA Editorial Flails Wildly, Snarks At Internet Users And Claims Those Challenging NSA's Reach 'Hate Obama'

from the nothing-but-'extremists'-as-far-as-the-government-blinders-can-see dept

As more details of the NSA’s Fourth Amendment-abusing surveillance programs continue to be unveiled, it’s been remarkable to watch the verbal and written contortions deployed by supporters to justify each new bit of exposed information.

Some of the most impressive work comes from the pros, ones whose paychecks (either directly or through campaign contributions) rely on the NSA’s continued survival. Every incident of terrorism (especially 9/11) is held up as an example of why we need the NSA. Dozens of theoretically thwarted attacks are pointed to as “evidence” of the NSA’s crucial work. Countless references are made to the legality of the data harvesting. Things are mumbled about “welcoming the debate” or “maintaining a balance between privacy and security.”

When all of that doesn’t seem to be enough, the defenders resort to portraying domestic surveillance opponents as youthful internet dwellers who have gathered more Facebook Likes than public displays of affection.

Those who aren’t actively beholden to these intelligence agencies flail even more wildly, but still use the same rhetorical touchstones: 9/11, security, metadata, personal attacks.

This horrible GO TEAM DOMESTIC SURVEILLANCE! opinion piece at the Seattle Times begins like many others. Columnist Froma Harrop takes us on a ride in the wayback machine, all the way back to 2001.

During the 2001 assault on the World Trade Center, I was trapped in a train under Manhattan for hours. As news of the collapsing towers, the attack on the Pentagon and the crash in Pennsylvania filtered down to the passengers, the conductor kept telling us this tunnel was the safest place we could be. Meanwhile, the tunnels were being searched for explosives.

I recall thinking, here we are in the commercial capital of the most powerful country on earth, with a zillion-dollar defense budget, and we couldn’t see this coming. That’s what the National Security Agency’s massive data-combing program is supposed to do. See the next thing coming, and stop it.

Now, if readers had somehow missed the headline (“Unjustified hysteria over the NSA surveillance programs“), they might be inclined to believe this piece was headed in an anti-NSA direction. After all, the most powerful nation in the world had the NSA’s data-combing operations at its disposal and still couldn’t prevent the attacks. (And it did have the NSA’s data-combing operations at its disposal — even if it was fairly miniscule as compared to today’s globe-spanning monstrosity.)

But Harrop believes this lack of prevention and failure of a “zillion-dollar defense budget” means we should have more of the stuff that didn’t work before.

So hard as I try, I can’t fathom the manic outrage over the idea of a government computer raking through the metadata on Americans’ phone calls and emails. Metadata is about email addresses, numbers called and length of conversation.

And there’s the personal attack. People alarmed or outraged by the extent of the NSA’s programs are “manic.”

The computers don’t look at content — what I say or what is said to me. Where’s the big loss in privacy?

First, you have to accept the premise that metadata is harmless. And if you do that, as Harrop has done, the NSA has a whole raft of acronyms to sell you. Second, you have to believe the NSA doesn’t look at content. It swears it doesn’t. I’d be more inclined to believe the NSA if it would swear on the stack of 20,000 documents currently in the Guardian’s possession.

Harrop, already pretty much completely sold on the NSA’s talking points, then goes on to seek confirmation of her bias.

John Schindler is an expert on intelligence and terrorism at the U.S. Naval War College. He spent a decade with the NSA. Do I understand the basics? I ask him. Pretty much.

Objection. Leading.

And so on. Schindler (a Schindler whose list you’d rather avoid) breaks down the surveillance programs as nothing more than harmless metadata, lawfully collected, queried by analysts in order to save the lives of millions. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

But I bet Harrop is now wishing she hadn’t included this paragraph.

Agencies investigating drug trafficking, cyberattacks and other criminal activity have long complained about being denied access to NSA intelligence data. That’s because their searches are not directly connected to terrorism or foreign spying.

Do you mean agencies other than the DEA and the IRS? There may have been some complaining, but that noise is starting to sound more like cover to me than the legitimate noise of spurned agencies. And those who are still being cut out of the loop (at least as far as we know) are seeking access, in order to hunt down other dangerous individuals — like copyright infringers. The NSA says it doesn’t share this data, but it does. And yet, supporters like Harrop still buy the agency’s statements that it doesn’t view content, just metadata.

Schindler, being the company man that he is, also brings a little internet-denizen-slamming of his own into the conversation.

“[T]he idea of 10,000 NSA agents looking at our pictures of cats and pornography is pure fantasy,” he remarked.

Stupid internet users. Concerned about their cats and porn. Who would even care about their internet usage, metadata, etc.? Not the NSA. It’s more interested in passing around tapes of phone calls from Americans stuck in the Mideast, looking for an intimate moment or two with their significant others. Why bother with porn when you can record someone else’s “sex tapes?”

And there’s so much more. Harrop refers to Glenn Greenwald as “the left-wing journalist flogging heated conspiracy theories” who “routinely hyperventilates against Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats supporting the program” when not devolving into “bursts of self-promotion.”

And it’s not just lefties Harrop thinks are prone to “manic” bouts of anti-NSA “hysteria.” It’s also “extremists” from the other side of political divide. (Take note of this portrayal as it is almost as common as everything listed above.)

Unsurprisingly, the paranoia has attracted allies on the far right.

Yep, it’s only those on the far-left or far-right that are concerned about the NSA. Anyone more centrally-located is perfectly fine with the data harvesting. Odd, though, that Amash’s NSA-defunding amendment would gather so much support from both sides of the aisle. Congress must be full of extremists.

And then… Harrop pushes herself right off the same sort of deep end she spent the preceding paragraphs disparaging.

What holds the hard right-left alliance together is this: They hate Obama.

We’ll just leave that one lying there (much as Harrop does) because if anything doesn’t deserve a response, that insipid, isolated, brain spasm of an assertion certainly doesn’t. Someone could fill an entire comment thread solely attacking the inherent wrongness of that “conclusion,” but you’re not going to find it up here.

Finally, Harrop ties this travesty together with the cheapest, shittiest brand of rhetorical twine.

[T]here’s no way to find the terrorist needle in the haystack of communications without combing through the haystack. After the next terrorist outrage, we won’t be having this discussion. You can be sure of that.

Really, Harrop? Really? We “won’t be having this discussion?” By “outrage,” I assume you mean “attack” and if we’re attacked, then these programs you’re defending haven’t really done anything to make the nation safer. The discussion will be EVERYWHERE. Critics will point out the failure of the programs. People like you will argue that we need more of the same surveillance that failed us any number of times in the past. But I guarantee the last effect a “terrorist outrage” will have is a shutdown of the discussion.

If this is what passes for a “defense” of these programs, then we’re safe to assume the programs are indefensible.

(H/T to silverscarcat who sent this in with the message, “Found this in my local paper this morning, this is probably something you can tear apart with ease. SSC was right.)

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Comments on “Pro-NSA Editorial Flails Wildly, Snarks At Internet Users And Claims Those Challenging NSA's Reach 'Hate Obama'”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Old clueless woman screams get off my lawn.

Unable to keep up with the actual news she invents a narrative in her head and sticks with it, even as its revealed that she was lied to and bought into it.

She has become the new Obama birther, she is going to keep repeating things until she can make someone else think what she believes is true.

New Mexico Mark says:

Re: Old clueless woman screams get off my lawn.

If “Old clueless woman screams get off my lawn” was the extent of it, the most appropriate response would be to ignore and move on. Unfortunately she is babbling for the right for others to not only camp on my lawn but to tear off my curtains and run cameras aimed into every window so she can (unjustifiably) feel a bit more secure. Now we have a problem.

Ninja (profile) says:

So the programs existed even before 9/11 and they didn’t stop 9/11. Then they were massively increased and extended and they didn’t prevent Boston bombings. They didn’t prevent several shootings. They didn’t prevent embassies from being attacked. They couldn’t even prevent FBI’s imaginary terrorist plots.

What’s she babbling about again? Out of mercy pay her a good place for the elderly to rest. One with lots of cameras and microphones all around to prevent terrorist attacks inside so she’ll feel safe.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

They’d have to pretend they stopped with the surveillance idiocy to make it effective. Which is kind of useless if u think about because the inefficiency has been proven already.

But I see your point. I’m no conspiracy nut but 9/11 and the Boston bombings do present several doubts. In the latter the Internet did a quite nice job showing inconsistencies on the official versions.

Anonymous Coward says:

“youthful internet dwellers who have gathered more Facebook Likes than public displays of affection”

Use of this tired old meme is indicative of a lack in understanding of not only the internet but life in general.

“After the next terrorist outrage, we won’t be having this discussion. You can be sure of that.”

Seems she is admitting to knowledge of the next attack and the extent of its impact. Better begin her interrogation immediately.

The Real Michael says:

Inherently flawed mostly strawman argument. Who’s to say that if someone is plotting to do something that they’d just give away their intentions over the phone/internet like a buffoon, especially now that everyone knows the NSA is spying? Besides, we knew about the Russian bombers yet did nothing to stop them, so remind me what this spying program is for, because it clearly has nothing to do with stopping terrorists.

Robert says:

Re: Re:

Everyone is slowly waking up to what it is for under the current and of course the four previous administrations. The big hunt for threats to corporate profits.
Anarchists beware, peace activists watch out, greens your days are number, unionists live in fear, human rights activists watch out for yours being stripped away, basically any threat to the power and greed of corporations is the real target.

Kenneth Michaels (profile) says:

NSA, Copyright Infringement, Kim Dotcom, and Megaupload

In the NYT article that mentioned that the NSA refused to use collected data for investigating copyright infringement, the NSA said it refused to do so on “American targets” for “fear they could be misused in ways that violate Americans? privacy rights”.

Kim Dotcom, Megaupload, and friends are all non-American. There is no indication that the NSA refused to share data about Kim Dotcom et al. In fact, given what we know now, it appears likely that the NSA was involved with spying on Kim Dotcom for the MPAA: his computers were infected with secret spyware, the GCSB was involved, etc.

So, the NSA has likely spied on non-Americans to investigate copyright copyright infringement for the MPAA.

NYT Article:

out_of_the_blue says:

I recall thinking, around 1980: Why don't cockpit doors have locks?

“I recall thinking, here we are in the commercial capital of the most powerful country on earth, with a zillion-dollar defense budget, and we couldn’t see this coming.”

Locks on cockpit doors would have cost a few million total world-wide, yet nearly completed prevented hijacking, certainly so with the alleged “box-cutters”. So why wasn’t it done?

@ “Kenneth Michaels”: “So, the NSA has likely spied on non-Americans to investigate copyright copyright infringement for the MPAA.” [sic: “copyright” doubled]

First, ya got a bad case a “copyright” mania to double the word, besides off-topic mention of Megaupload!
2nd, YES, if what you believe is so, was to investigate copyright infringement: at last a pirate admits Megaupload hosted infringing files!

Guardian says:

the sudden rise of GAY issues vs nsa and privacy

just saw a post about how a guy talkign about Xkeyscore replies about gay bullshit in the post

so its if you value privacy your anti gay and anti NSA

so really what that should be telling you all is that the govt wants to destroy your privacy rights by using gay rights…

the russians dont care what you are , they just dont want fruit of the loopp dancing through the street…and its simple and yes there always are some bigots in ever nation

when i see SULU ( GEORGE TAKEI ) stand up against the nsa and stand for privacy , ill start helping his gay friends on there rights….

TILL then its jsut govt propaganda and im a lil tired of it at

TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I wanted to like Obama. I voted for him twice as well.
But I feel like he is a traitor to his country and himself. (See his pre-presidental comments on collecting information about Americans for clarity.)
His only loyalty seems to lie with the current government.

Land of the free and home of the brave has never sounded so hollow.

Alt0 says:

Re: Re: Re:Obama

Im in the same boat as you… I also voted for Obama.

“What holds the hard right-left alliance together is this: They hate Obama”

I have only begun to dislike him due to the NSA information becoming public. He could have gone two different ways in how he reacted to these leaks, and he chose to cover-up. That’s the beginning of his demise.

Lord Binky says:

Did they all just get together and decide to quit even trying to justify doing bad things? I’ve heard this standpoint way too much in the news in the last week that it is exceptionally ridiculous. Criticize the president? You must be racist, a terrorist, or just hate that person….

They can’t defend the content of the argument so they attack the other opposition’s character? It is so painfully juvenile a response and pure misdirection.

Anonymous Coward says:

Funny that when trust us comes out lacking, because we say so doesn’t work, it always seems to come down to ‘you no like Obama or something with a racial undertone’.

Get this, I don’t care what the mans’ color is. I don’t have to eat at his table, listen to his talk, sleep in his bed, or share his beer. My issues are not with either the man as a man or with what friggin’ race he is. My issues are with what he does. When he does he gets called Obama because it ain’t Bob doin’ it (whoever Bob might be).

With all the stage show that the GOP has put on about how much social programs should be cut to trim the defict, why am I not hearing about trimming the finances of these run-a-way and out-of-control spy agencies? Aren’t we leaving Afghanistan? Haven’t we finished warring other than on our own people for drugs?

Either Al Queida is decimated and we don’t need to go back or someone is again lying their ass off. Herein is the problem with politics and with this spying business. The American public has learned it can not trust what is said. Too many supposedly authority figures have stood up and flat out lied and then been caught in those lies. For over a month now, they are still lying. This is not the mark of some one or some program the public should trust. The damage is done, words will no longer fix it.

Nor will the stage show of Clapper doing an independent investigation. That’s just white wash and most every one already understands what the verdict will be without wasting the money to investigate. Clapper can not be believed and has no creditability. He destroyed that before the congressional investigation committee under oath and later confirmed he lied.

Michael Free says:

The one situation where a false flag attack doesn't work, ahh, truth...

We’re all strangers to each other yet we are all the same.

Do you prefer that I tell you the truth or that I tell you lies? Do you prefer that I do things to you either with or without your agreement?

Everyone answers the same way, no matter what culture you are in, no matter your religion, whether you’re an atheist, male or female, of whatever race or nationality, heterosexual or homosexual. Each of the characteristics that make each of these groups legitimate is that they agree to their beliefs with their peers. Now you might say that there ‘beliefs’ are untrue, but their beliefs alone do not affect you, so we debate them or we walk away, smiling. What does affect you is if someone lies to you or does something to you that you don’t agree to. It is not up to any group to attempt to control what other people do in agreement with each other. We have to be able to discern between ‘functional’ truth and lies and ‘belief’ truth and lies. A ‘functional’ lie is what happens when someone steals something that does not belong to them and then says that it is now theirs. Well, truth is, the person it was stolen from does not agree to it so the theft won’t stand, and the thief saying the thing that they stole is now theirs is a ‘functional’ lie. But if someone says that their ‘God’ is better than your ‘God’ and that your ‘God’ is a lie, how does that affect you? It doesn’t! What you view as a ‘belief’ lie is just that, so debate them or walk away, but smile.

Cleanse your feet of all past transgressions through asking for forgiveness for your lies and trespasses, then keep your feet clean as truth guides your feet into the way of peace, eating and drinking. Be humble, you are not better than anyone else. And in truth, when you see someone in need, ask them if you can help them somehow, and if they agree, help them when and where you can. Follow through on truth.

And if you have a goal in mind that you want to reach, if you tell the truth and only do things to other people that they agree to, then that goal will be reached and will have been built on a rock, but if you lie and do whatever you want to other people without their agreement in order to get to that goal, you are a thief and a robber and your goal will have been built on sand. When the winds and the rains come the goal built on a rock will not succomb to the elements but the goal built on sand will succomb to the elements and won’t be able to stand anymore. The path is the goal. Truth and love.

Tony Lopez-Cisneros says:


Get This SCENARIO Folks:

NSA Has Been Surveiling U.S. Citizens Since The End Of WWII.

NSA Goes Wild After 9-11-01 & Publicly Makes It Known They Are Listening To ALL Public Phone Calls & Reading ALL Mail (Snail-Mail &-Or E-mail) Of ALL For “[Y]OUR SECURITY” Via The “Patriot Act”.

After 9-11-01 They Are Hearing/Listening/Seeing ALL That U.S. Citizens DO, SAY & WRITE Via The Personal Computers & Cell-Phones (Whether The PCs &-Or Cell-Phones Are ON -Or- Off [Especially When U.S. Citizens Are In The Bathroom]).





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