More NSA Spying Fallout: Groklaw Shutting Down

from the the-pain-of-being-watched dept

A few months ago, after the NSA spying stories first broke, we wrote about a bit from This American Life where the host, Ira Glass, was interviewing lawyers for prisoners detained at Guantanamo, about the impact of knowing that the government was listening in on every single phone call you made. The responses were chilling. The people talked about how it stopped them from being emotional with their children or other close friends and relatives. How they had trouble functioning in ways that many people take for granted, just because the mental stress of knowing that you have absolutely no privacy is incredibly burdensome. PJ, the dynamo behind Groklaw, has written a powerful piece explaining the similar feeling she’s getting from all the revelations about government surveillance, in particular the shutting down of Lavabit by Ladar Levison, and his suggestion that if people knew what he knew about email, they wouldn’t use it.

Because of this, she’s shutting down Groklaw.

You really need to read the entire piece, but it clearly lays out the sort of mental anguish that you get with the realization that what you thought was private and personal, might not be any more. She compares it to the feeling of having her apartment robbed, and the creepy feeling you get that some stranger was riffing through all of your personal belongings. And, from there, she riffs on the importance of privacy and intimacy, and how the totalitarian state takes those things away, quoting a powerful passage from Janna Malamud Smith’s book Private Matters. You should go read the full quotes, but it notes the psychological impact of not having privacy.

And that’s how PJ feels right now. The fact that the NSA is collecting all emails in or out of the US, as well as all encrypted messages, means that it’s impossible to have that privacy and intimacy that she feels is necessary to run the site:

There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don’t expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That’s it exactly. That’s how I feel.

So. There we are. The foundation of Groklaw is over. I can’t do Groklaw without your input. I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate.

I’m really sorry that it’s so. I loved doing Groklaw, and I believe we really made a significant contribution. But even that turns out to be less than we thought, or less than I hoped for, anyway. My hope was always to show you that there is beauty and safety in the rule of law, that civilization actually depends on it. How quaint.

What amazes me in all of these discussions concerning the defenders of such surveillance is that they never even seem able to comprehend the psychological impact of what all of this does. The way people change their behavior when they’re being watched constantly, and what that can do to a person.

The fallout from all of this NSA surveillance will take a very, very long time to measure, but it will be profound. The government, again, has put so much emphasis on the “benefit” of preventing an exceptionally low probability event, that it barely even considers the massive costs on everyone else. PJ isn’t shutting down Groklaw for the same reasons as Lavabit shut down. But it is the same root cause. The power of a surveillance state to spin out of control has wide-reaching consequences. It’s difficult to see how anyone can claim it’s worth the costs.

My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it’s possible. I’m just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can’t stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible. I find myself unable to write. I’ve always been a private person. That’s why I never wanted to be a celebrity and why I fought hard to maintain both my privacy and yours.

Oddly, if everyone did that, leap off the Internet, the world’s economy would collapse, I suppose. I can’t really hope for that. But for me, the Internet is over.

So this is the last Groklaw article. I won’t turn on comments. Thank you for all you’ve done. I will never forget you and our work together. I hope you’ll remember me too. I’m sorry I can’t overcome these feelings, but I yam what I yam, and I tried, but I can’t.

I find this deeply upsetting on many levels, not the least of which is that Groklaw is a needless casualty in a stupid power struggle among weak-minded, power hungry government officials who don’t even seem to comprehend what a mess they’ve created.

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Comments on “More NSA Spying Fallout: Groklaw Shutting Down”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What’s really annoying is that Groklaw, for the most part, tried to keep its biases out of its articles, and has pretty consistently argued that privacy trumps most other principles.

So, by the rampant raping and pillaging of data by the NSA, sites that are actually useful are closing down because they don’t feel safe.

The terrorists have won – they made the US ruling elite so afraid that they have turned that fear loose upon the world, in a manner akin to the opening of Pandora’s Box.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

Um, who do you think funded and trained Al Qaeda to begin with? After the Cold War ended, we needed a new enemy in order for the military industrial complex to remain active and profitable, not to mention give politicians an excuse to invade other countries and trample more of our rights.

Our government doesn’t want peace, it wants war — neverending war.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Your tunnel vision has severely affected your understanding of the situation and is indicative of the harrow mindedness which is the real culprit here. Clearly you give Obama too much credit. The cesspool which you now realize you reside in has been there all along. It was created long ago and like pigs, people seem to enjoy it. So – ya, wag your finger making yourself feel better through anger because that is what they want, You play right into their hand.

Loki says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nonsense. For every lie, omission, or deception that has come out of his mouth (or those of his underlings) I can find a comparable one that came from Bush (or his underlings). Our entire involvement in Iraq (and most of Afghanistan) were based on lies and deceptions.

And let’s not forget that Congress is every bit as culpable, if not more so, that either the Bush or Obama administrations. Listening to the crap being spewed by Mike Rogers (a Republican) and Dianne Feinstein (a Democrat) while people like Ron Paul (a Republican) and Ron Wyden (a Democrat) to inform people and wake them the hell up clearly shows this has NOTHING to do with party politics (which is really just a show to keep the general population divided at this point).

PaulT (profile) says:

A shame. Although I haven’t followed the site regularly since the SCO fiasco was confirmed to have ended, it was a great insight into how US legal battles work and of certain mindsets out there that deserved to be exposed.

I wish PJ the best for everything in her future, although I do still question how anyone could honestly be surprised by these revelations. Shocked that it’s actually proven to be real perhaps, but not surprised that this would be happening.

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Gah, you’re such a moron.

… if PJ feels she has no privacy who does she post everything on a web page ?

Well. Since you’ve decided to post to TD, I’m sure you don’t mind if we have some info about you. Please answer the following questions:
– What your real name?
– What your address?
– Who is your employer?
– What are your parent’s names?
– When is the last time your received (or gave, whatever) a blowjob?
– How often do you masturbate?

Since you’re posting to a web page you clearly don’t believe you’re entitled to any privacy. Therefore, you should have no problem answering those questions.

Anonymous Coward says:

“just because the mental stress of knowing that you have absolutely no privacy is incredibly burdensome”

I used to read Grok a little, but it became pointless, also if PJ feels she has no privacy who does she post everything on a web page ?

She’s put all this stuff out there, and what is not worried that people are going to read it ?

Groklaw is ineffectual, and lost it’s way, (much like TD seems to have done). We all knew PJ was on the way out, a long time ago, when she stood down !!!.

Good luck to her, I hope she finds a real job, but if you are willing to put yourself out there, don’t get upset when people see you !!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“if PJ feels she has no privacy who does she post everything on a web page ?”

Why should posting facts and opinions on a web page mean that you have no right to privacy?

PJ definitely did her best to remain private as an individual, although certain people made it impossible for her to continue to conceal her identity. She only revealed her real name after to some stalkerish behaviour by SCO lawyers, IIRC, and only then based on false accusations of being an IBM employee that couldn’t be effectively refuted without revealing her real identity.

I wonder if you feel that you should be subject to such treatment now that you’ve decided to post on a web page? I also wonder if you’re one of the ACs who bleats if Mike decides to look at his web logs for IP addresses to confirm which trolls are currently infesting the site.

“I hope she finds a real job”

I wish that of some people on this site too. At least she’s contributed to discussion and helped expose some real problems and horrendous practices. What have you done?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Going by how you continue to write, darryl – ineffectually at that – it’s obvious you can’t read either.

Cut your dick on a solar panel and don’t come back until you’ve demanded your government to remove “1984” from the country’s public domain. Why should only Americans have to pay George Orwell’s corpse?

You fucking freetard.

S. T. Stone says:

Re: Re:

if PJ feels she has no privacy who does she post everything on a web page?

Does she really post everything?

Yeah, some people post all their daily life happenings and bullshit minutae on the Internet, and they clearly have no problem with (or haven?t given much thought to the implications of) sharing all of that information.

But before Snowden?s leaks, we took it for granted that the government didn?t spy on everyone?s communications and, thus, left us to our own devices in terms of privacy on the Internet.

That has now changed thanks to Snowden?s leaks.

We now live in a culture in which everyone has begun to rethink their activity on the Internet. We now live in a world where something as innocuous as email has become something to avoid at all costs. We now live in a time where we have one of humankind?s greatest achievements coming under attack (directly or indirectly) from governments who wants to control said achievement (and the information flowing within it) without any oversight whatsoever.

No, the Internet doesn?t promise 100% privacy. And no, neither does the government.

But the idea of privacy, especially concerning communications, goes a long way towards determining how people will act in certain situations.

Our usage of email will change now that we know the US government has essentially live-tapped email. The knowledge itself creates a chilling effect on communications of all kinds. Journalists will think twice before communicating with sources. Politicians will do the same with constituents and donors and political allies. Even the average person may take an extra moment to think about sending the most innocuous of emails.

PJ shut down Groklaw because she can?t write it without collaborating with others. She no longer trusts email as a private method of communicating and collaborating with others. The shutdown has nothing to do with how much content she shared with the world.

It has everything to do with how the government has made her afraid to share content in the first place.

Ben S (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Geeks already have been. BitMessage is one such example. Functions like email, except your “address” in this instance is actually a public encryption key, with a private key locally saved. Data transmitted between computers/servers on the way to destinations do not have the ultimate source or destination IP addresses, only the current computer’s IP address, and the next computer in line to receive the data. When you connect, you simply download a copy of all the encrypted data, filter for anything with your public key, unencrypt and store in your Inbox, and forward anything that’s not yours received further down the line. The result is that any message you send out, goes to literally everyone connected to the system, yet only the recipient can read it. Anyone snooping on your connection won’t be able to distinguish between which messages are yours, vs some one else’s.

It’s still in testing, and looking for independent security experts to audit the encryption system to confirm the level of security they’re after, but they have had some people examining the encryption and trying to break it already, then reporting their results. It’s a work in progress, but already it’s functioning quite well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Headbhang I am afraid has it right. This has never been about terrorism. Terrorism is just a convenient tag to do this because of. Had it not been terrorism, protect the children or pedophile head hunting would have worked just as well. It’s just a matter of how far to stretch it.

It’s totally out of control and those in security and the three branches of government responsible for balance of power can’t seem to comprehend what the real damage is.

I no longer send emails. Mainly when I got away from it was because of spam. Now it is unlikely I will return to it ever. Who needs big brother leaning over your shoulder as you write? I’m not too sure PJ doesn’t have a good point with leaving the internet. It would sure stop a lot of the spying done on line.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

You wanna hear something absurd? More people die in driving accidents in one year than have died from a terrorist attack in the past several decades combined. Nearly 900,000 people die each year due to medical mistakes. Heck, you’re more likely to die from being drowned in a pool or struck by lightning.

Back to the point of the article. Don’t you think that if there were ‘scary boogeymen’ secretly plotting to kill that they wouldn’t be foolish enough to give law enforcement a tip-off by communicating details of what they’re planning, especially now that everybody knows what the NSA is doing? Besides that, treating everybody like a potential criminal, eavesdropping on all of our communications wholesale, makes us seem more like an oversized banana republic rather than the free nation we once were.

Ninja (profile) says:

Needless causality? Or raising awareness to the impact that this absurd mass surveillance can cause? I’m not sure the Americans fully understand what’s at stake here. If they did they’d be demanding Obama to step down. They’d be all over the streets in large protests all over. Sure I’m not one to talk considering my own country but the loss the Americans suffered with the anti-terrorism bullshit is worth protesting against. Unless of course we are not seeing any protest via the usual media channels…

davnel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

For once I agree with you. As for Network News coverage of any possible formal protest, IMHO I wouldn’t expect to see any of it there. For that reason, I usually get my news from unofficial sources like Techdirt and Ars Technica. At least I feel I can trust them. I don’t have any use for “Real Journalists” who spend their time parroting the “official” news from the government. They stopped being “journalists” a long time ago.

Steiner says:

Re: Response to: Ninja on Aug 20th, 2013 @ 3:58am

Americans taking to the street? Really? Highly improbable. Judging from what already has come down, in a whole variety of areas, this hardly seems likely to get much of anyone into the streets. Hardly anyone has taken tonthe wtreets about this sonfar. Americans have become nothing more than a herd of sheep.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:


The American People won’t riot, and they won’t rebel. Successful rebellion or revolution is impossible. The government has nukes, F22s, drones, MOABs, mines, 50 cals and tanks. The government controls the currency. The government controls communications. The government has at least three national organizations besides the military that are better equipped and trained than the people.

American freedom was always balanced upon the idea that the inmates ran the asylum. That is no longer true. The ruling elite have no respect for the proles. “I don’t care about that 47%” is probably a truer statement than “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Now that we have lost the reigns of government, military, and industry, we are expected to put up a resistance against the machine that implicitly threatens death or imprisonment and torture of self and those close to us for the benign act of disagreeing with it? The machine that sanctions robotic executions of citizens without trial in non-war-zones? That trains and arms its enemies so that it can further impose its will on the governed? I, like the von Trapp’s, am looking for the nearest secure exit.

crazytrpr (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Obama, Bush, Kennedy & Nixon and just about every representative of ours has failed us miserably in the last 50+ years. No getting arround that.

Worse than that, We the voting public have failed. Most people do not care or actively support such surveillence programs. Either they benefit (safety) or feel their lives are so boring nobody will care about them. Wrong! This surveillence apparatus is a double edged sword that can be used against you, me or anyone even the (former) elites as they battle for power (elites like everyone else are not a unified block and have enemies). All it takes is an angry neighbor to give your name to the authorities even if its BS.

Dreddsnik says:

Re: Re:

What would Obama stepping down accomplish ? This is a problem that started a long time ago and has carried through at least 4 administrations. It’s not the president now and it wasn’t then. It’s always been congress. They’re the machine. The president is simply a scapegoat. He’s there to catch the blame so that those who are truly the problem can continue to BE the problem in the next administration, and the next, and so on. Obama stepping down would make many FEEL like they’ve accomplished something, fixed what was broken, and thus stop paying attention, once again.

davnel (profile) says:

So it begins. I hoped that our government would buy a clue and at least throttle this stuff down. It appears they’re doing the opposite. Too much money involved, I guess.

First a couple of (minor) secure email sites shut down to avoid caving in to da gummint, and compromising their customers. That’s tragic enough but not that big a deal. Groklaw is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, and I’m very saddened to see her go. Now it’s getting serious. Who’s next, I wonder?

horse with no name says:

Not very surprising

This post might get long, but bear with me – and very seriously, there is absolute no intent to say anything negative.

First and foremost, I realized something really important. While there are any number of posts here about how you end up with poor patents because you take something existing and add “on the internet” to the end of it, I think also it’s equally bad when “on the internet” is used as an excuse to ignore the law. Oh yeah, BY ALL SIDES (before anyone tries to troll jump me).

We have also gone through a period where everyone widely shared their personal information, and often have expressed views that would either get them arrested, sued, or a nice pair of cement shoes in the real world, all hiding behind being more or less anonymous. Those who were not anonymous do what is done here (and other sites) which is to try to be so public that people won’t fight back.

After a nearly two decade run as a wide open, no restrictions, no responsibility method of communication and commerce, the end is nigh. The slow moving governments of the world are moving to corral the beast, they are using it as a source of intelligence, and they are working on ways to quite literally make you more responsible for your own actions.

What PJ doesn’t get is something really key here: The same thing written offline and shared in print would have the same basic effect. “On the internet” shouldn’t mean you can say the things that you wouldn’t say normally. The internet is a soap box, for sure, but with a soap box, you have to expose yourself as well and accept responsibility for your actions. PJ just doesn’t get it – if the material as written online was so bad as to be too much of a risk to continue, then perhaps it’s the words and actions themselves that are the issue – not the internet.

coward (anon) says:

Re: Not very surprising

What you are missing is that PJ didn’t take down Groklaw because she was worried about the content being posted, but rather the (sometimes very private) discussions via email that lead to the web site postings. Discussions which might contain legally sensitive or speculative details. It was the realization that EVERYTHING ANYONE says via email is seen by the “government”. It wasn’t because she was ashamed or worried about the content of the emails, it is just the fact that some unknown third party is reading them (and potentially mis-understanding them). I’ll miss Groklaw a lot (I learned a lot about how the law does, and doesn’t, work from PJ and company) but I respect and understand her decision to shut it down.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: Not very surprising

” It was the realization that EVERYTHING ANYONE says via email is seen by the “government”.”

When you mode of communication is to offer up an open face letter to a third party to deliver for you, your right to privacy is somewhat limited. That’s pretty much as simple as it gets. Even businesses are discovering that email is considered in legal terms a business communication, and as such, cannot easily be disposed of.

Put it another way, SJ should have expected no more privacy in email than would be had sending postcards through the mail – everyone who handles it can read the message. Understanding that basic concept is very important.

I am not happy to see Groklaw go either. However, I am more shcoked that someone so conversant in the law would have taken a decade to figure out that email isn’t a secure or private way to send someone a message. I think that is a little odd, and makes this sudden shutdown look much more like someone looking for an exit before responsibility catches up with them rather than someone who suddenly had a revelation.

Nonanon says:

Re: Not very surprising

No, you don’t get it. The information they are gathering goes far beyond what one publishes for the world to see. It digs into the most private recesses of your personal data, that which you never intended anyone to see. It is the equivalent of bugging your house, recording all your private conversations with guests, and investigating you based on your innermost feelings.

Your argument is just a rewording of the (now cliche) “If you don’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.” As Snowden so eloquently put it, you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You merely have to come under suspicion at some point in the future, and all your past musings can be held against you.

This is what you are applauding? You seem to relish the death of privacy and free speech.

Another "anonymous" coward says:

Re: Not very surprising

The problem with your argument is the same as “Why worry if you have nothing to hide?” Sure, we should be careful what we post on public sites. Some people (myself for one), held an expectation of privacy concerning e-mail (much like I expect from the Post Office) until fairly recently. That is, knowing that it is technically possible to open someone’s mail, it is illegal for any government agent to do so without a warrant obtained beforehand for a specific piece of mail and a specific reason. The problem isn’t the exact wording people use in their personal communications, the problem is when government agencies intercept communications in secret with no oversight. That is a bad sign, no matter how they try to justify it. Even if everyone in politics is acting in a truly altruistic way (they aren’t), the potential for abuse is too high.

I’m with you that “on the internet” shouldn’t be an excuse to ignore the law.

ldne says:

Re: Not very surprising

What’s surprising is that you believe something this ridiculous:

The same thing written offline and shared in print would have the same basic effect.

The internet has provided a virtually unrestricted and instantaneous almost global communication and distribution medium. Printed materials cost a lot of money and time to make and distribute and their dissemination can be greatly controlled simply by confiscating the box or legally limiting the shipping company or confiscating the material as it is found, since copies are limited to what can be produced within the fastest time frame the printing equipment is capable of. The packet switching used in network traffic is kind of equivalent to cutting up every page in a book into a thousand pieces and mailing them all separately to hundreds of different addresses for forwarding, it was designed with the intent of being so redundant as to virtually ensure delivery no matter what, and the electronic data delivered can be copied endlessly with nothing more than a mouse click and a second or two of time for text files and can easily be redistributed again and again after arrival. The difference in potential impact between the two different mediums is so vast that to make the statement you did indicates that you have no understanding of what you are writing about at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not very surprising

Just because my papers are electronic, doesn’t mean I forfeit my 4th amendment rights. If the police pulled me over and started rummaging through a notebook in my car, reading everyone word, photographing the pages, whatever, the supreme court would shut them down in a heartbeat. Yet, a traffic stop got my cell phone searched just last month. Things are out of control. Either the checks and balances kick in, or we clean house in the next 3 elections (not just one).

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: Not very surprising

“Just because my papers are electronic, doesn’t mean I forfeit my 4th amendment rights.”

The problem with your argument is that you want to give your electronic papers MORE protection than the written word. You want to be able to pass messages through a third party and not have that breach confidentiality. You want to be able to have a stack of electronic papers in the open with the protection of a locked, hidden box. A hard drive on your desk or a stack of papers should be subject to the same plain sight rules, don’t you think?

What you are proposing is that your electronic communications should have MORE protection than paper, more protection than a phone call, and more protection in public than your car, bike, or public statements. You aren’t being asked to forfeit rights, you are just being asked to stop trying to create new ones.

11811 says:

Re: Not very surprising

And what you don’t seem to get is that a lot of the information that exists, or existed, in print only are kept far more secret than things online, that is why we are talking about the internet here, it’s not comparable to the “real world” you see, it’s a new beast entirely, with a whole different set of possibilities. I’m not sure what you’re talking about with “accepting responsibility” anyway, but I assume you’re talking about the line between freedom of speech and libel. That is a battle we should be fighting always, us vs. big names and companies. You’ve either got some sort of defeatist attitude, or you’re actually okay with the death of freedom, I’m not too sure. We are far from working out the kinks in internet law, obviously, right? Maybe, with all our possibilities on the internet far outnumbering the possibilities we had in the “old world”, we ought to gain new freedoms in proportion to the number of freedoms we lose.

The internet is still really young. Everyone seems to think that we’re old now and can make broad sweeping statements about crap we know nothing about. If you want my prediction, I believe that the fight for internet freedom will persist for hundreds of years, if not indefinitely.

Dave (profile) says:

Re: Not very surprising

Three points:
1. It was said recently that the nature of mankind is to push limits and possibly break laws in an effort to improve his lot in life. It’s part of being human. We all do it to some extent.

2. One channel that still remains open, and, for now, secure, is snailmail. If you write a letter and send it to someone via the US Postal Service, the government CANNOT open and read it without a very specific warrant. I can foresee a time, in the very near future, when the use of envelopes and postage stamps increases greatly (are you listening Of course, that also means there’s a hard-copy record of what transpired somewhere. We’ve just been seduced by the ease and convenience of electronic communication. Back to pen and paper.

3. Since time immemorial, the people in power have always punished those messengers that bring bad news to them. This, too, is human nature. We haven’t changed much in the last 3,000 years or so.

Zocka says:

Secure E-Mail

It’s interesting that PJ is recommending as a way to have secure emails:

If you have to stay on the Internet, my research indicates that the short term safety from surveillance, to the degree that is even possible, is to use a service like Kolab for email, which is located in Switzerland, and hence is under different laws than the US, laws which attempt to afford more privacy to citizens. I have now gotten for myself an email there, p.jones at in case anyone wishes to contact me over something really important and feels squeamish about writing to an email address on a server in the US.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Secure E-Mail

I hate to rain on your parade, but how do you really expect that to be secure?

Your email is going out of the US – so we know it is monitored. It is encrypted, so we know it is flagged as suspect. You are probably using an operating system that was developed by a US company that has been getting forced into giving the NSA information about security holes.

I think there is a pretty reasonable chance that the NSA has defeated the majority of the encrypted email options available already.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Secure E-Mail

Let me guess… Ubuntu or it’s forks

If I’m correct. it’s as suspect at the moment as MS or iOS etc

In fact all *nix from USA organisations (and the underlying email structures within them) are suspect now and until proven otherwise most non-USA orgs are seriously considering changing to something less idiot proof and more secure.

Basically no US organisation can honestly state they do not have secret orders from NSA to allow backdoors and there is the main problem.

The USA as an ongoing concern within the worldwide business market or ITC is now HIGHLY suspect and is teetering on the edge of an abyss where the tipping point if not already has happened is about to.

Modplan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Secure E-Mail

Canonical is not a US organisation, it’s based in the UK. Also, it’s impossible for it to be “as suspect” as Windows or iOS considering the vast majority of code is GPL’d or similar. The most suspect parts would be the automatic routing of desktop search queries via Canonical to Amazon and various others thanks to the online search feature now default in the desktop, but this can be turned off and completely uninstalled if you wish. If you really feel that isn’t enough, feel free to inspect the GPL’d source code until you are happy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Secure E-Mail

Speaking as an expert on email, with a substantial background in general TCP/IP security and a lot of experience in the field dealing with service security…I don’t think secure email is currently possible.

I say that in part because of the technical issues (which I’ll omit for brevity) but more so because of the human issues. I am perfectly capable of breaching security on any of your computers/laptops/tablets/smartphones, either by exploiting OS/application vulnerabilities or by using human engineering techniques on you. I’m not the only one. I’m not the best one. There are people whose talents in certain areas far exceed mine. Eventually there will be more of them. Some of them work for themselves, some for organized criminal gangs, and some work for governments. (Not much daylight between those last two.)

In other words, secure email isn’t currently possible because it’s far too easy to breach the endpoints. And of course once I control your system, I have access to all email that you send/receive. And once I have that, I can use your identity and your access to go after others.
(Nothing new in that: it’s how ordinary malware works today. In fact, malware would likely by the method of choice.)

Services (like mykolab)? Hopeless. They’ll be backdoored. I would, if I were the spooks and on some kind of paranoid surveil-everything power trip. Someone will be bought or bribed, blackmailed or coerced. Code will be quietly modified. A network tap installed late one night when nobody’s around, a “black bag” job. A keystroke logger will grab the root password. Or something else. But it’ll happen.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Secure E-Mail

Exactly… a secret is ONLY a secret if only you know it.

Email like anything else that has humans in control of it is only as secure as the person who controls it all (or part of it). people can be bribed, threatened, cajoled or sweet talked into doing most things. [The London experiment of handing out free icecream for your password showed that – over 80% gave up their office password with no hesitation]

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Secure E-Mail

While you are in the ballpark, in my opinion you’re overstating the case. Absolute security is, of course, impossible (in anything). However, “good enough” security is absolutely possible, and not even that hard.

I wouldn’t recommend mykolab (or any other third party service) as a solution at all, it doesn’t matter where it’s located. Fortunately, there already a well-established and standard way of sending encrypted emails without requiring a service at all (pgp or gpg). I recommend that.

Rich says:

Re: Re: Re: Secure E-Mail

You can try “breaching security” on my computer or using Human (I think you mean “social”) engineering, but will no doubt fail. Stop spread this notion of a scary cyber-world, where you are hopelessly at the mercy of every two-bit “hacker” (i.e., cracker) out there. It’s the governments job to spread that FUD.

Anonymous Coward says:

This reminds me...

Long, long time ago, in a small, insignificant country behind an Iron Courtain, lived a philosopher and an author, best known for his early science fiction stories about self-aware robots and the fact Philip K. Dick thought him to be a front for some communist party’s “cultural sabotage” unit.

One of the short stories he wrote, titled “Prawda” (The Truth), told a story of a young physicist on a trip to a space colony. This colony, due to “safety reasons” and “crime prevention”, had absolute, total surveillance system, so pervasive and widespread that even individual rooms’ walls were transparent – with an option to turn them opaque for up to an hour. And yet, despite that extreme monitoring, explicitly stated to be able to read words from people’s lips in real time, people were able to communicate “incorrect” and “dangerous” ideas with ease, by redefining the language on the fly…

It’s sad that this particular story has never been translated to English; I always considered it one of most significant of all Stanislaw Lem’s works.

P.S. The titular truth, guarded with fanatical zealotry that stopped short of nothing, was so simple and trivial that it only took a piece of string and a small weight to discover it.

Steve Holden (user link) says:

Re: Surrendered

They? Who are “they”? People badly-disposed to the good ole U S of A, that well-known imperialist power? Thanks to two entirely bogus wars in Afghanistan and Iraq there will be millions more of them than there were twelve years ago. God forbid that America should ever consider diverting “defense” spending to sensible purposes.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I'm just rambling but...

It’s much, much worse than that actually. With the reveal that the US has secret courts who okay secret laws and secret interpretations of current laws, people no longer even have the assurance that they’d face a real court or even be told what they were being charged with if someone in the government decides they don’t like them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'm just rambling but...

thank you for your reply. I realize that this post is rolling off the front page but just in case you get notifications about people replying to you and happen to see this I wanted to say that your exactly right about everything you just said.

I don’t know if many people realize just how serious it is that they can interpret (or should we say fabricate they’re own understandings of) things in secret.

I completely agree and it is true that they can indeed charge you and send you to prison with no reason at all and not even give you a chance to prove your innocence in court.

what can be done to stop this monster?

out_of_the_blue says:

"psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

The RIch and their gov’ts ain’t fooling around, kids. They REALLY are going to steal ALL your liberty and life.

And by the way, not to wedge this in, but Google is watching you TOO, and it certainly chills me to be spied on constantly by a creepy mega-corporation — that gives NSA direct access.

BUT so long as you kids don’t see the direct connection between smiley face of Google and the mailed fist of gov’t, we are doomed.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: "psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

Don’t forget that the rich want to steal the public domain and want to steal copyright royalties for works they don’t even own. Don’t forget that they purposely use copyright as a convenient large scale censorship tool on a frequent basis. Don’t forget that these are the very oppressors who want laws like SOPA, PIPA, etc and try to hide copyright within trade agreements — in secret. Because all the back room secrets, like the NSA cannot stand the scrutiny of bright light.

Google isn’t watching me the way the NSA is watching me.
Google doesn’t get its hooks deep into ISP infrastructure.
Google doesn’t pry into web sites, like groklaw, that have a robots.txt file stating to keep out.
Google doesn’t collect and read my email — unless I deliberately hand it to them via their Gmail service.
Google doesn’t tap into all of my audio telephone calls.
Google doesn’t care anything about who I am, where I live, who I sleep with, what my interests are, or anything else except to the extent that they can calculate what ads I am more likely to respond to.

In short, Google DOES NOT spy on me. I voluntarily let them see some of my personal information in exchange for a superior internet experience that enhances my life in a real way. Nothing the NSA does improves my life, yet they cost me tax dollars.

Google does not own the government the way the evil RIAA and MPAA and other parties do.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: "psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

@ “DannyB” “In short, Google DOES NOT spy on me.”

HA, HA! That’s the sort of astounding stupidity that I come to Techdirt for, and the kind of howler that I try to elicit. It’s difficult to believe anyone would say such a known lie, but there it is! Thanks!

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

You are the one (A) telling the lie and (B) with astounding stupidity.

I said: Google DOES NOT spy on me. I voluntarily let them see some of my personal information in exchange for . . .

If I voluntarily give you certain information, was it spying for you to now have that information?

Does Google intercept my other non-Google communications as the NSA does? Does Google record my phone calls and log my US Postal snail mail? Can Google see the non-Google packets to and from my ISP?

RD says:

Re: "psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

“And by the way, not to wedge this in, but Google is watching you TOO”

You DO realize that Google can only “spy” on you when




right? If you don’t use it, it can’t report all your shit to the NSA.

Alternatively, the NSA is spying on EVERYTHING, across the board.

This isn’t about fucking Google. This is about the abuse of the Government (which has the laws and guns on its side and the power to enforce them) upon the citizenry, and how it seems virtually NO ONE in power has the political will or strength of character to stand up against it.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: "psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

@ “RD” “You DO realize that Google can only “spy” on you when




right? If you don’t use it, it can’t report all your shit to the NSA.

Nope, there you’re flatly wrong and/or lying. Look at the source of this very page (IF you even know how to do that, let alone can recognize code function), and count the number of references TO Google, by which I mean javascript that’s served directly FROM Google, loaded EVERY time with the page. — Save the page and look at the 200K bytes or so that Google wants to run to extract identifying data and plant tracking cookies.

My ISP switched from internal to Gmail some time ago.

No, sonny: despite my best and somewhwat informed efforts, I’m NOT avoiding Google. As a practical matter, it appears impossible to use the internet and avoid Google’s tracking. Snowden says they give NSA direct access. And most people aren’t even aware of how much they’re tracked.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

there you’re flatly wrong and/or lying

Sorry, he’s 100% correct.

Look at the source of this very page

Yes, so what? Just because it’s in the page doesn’t mean your computer has to honor it. Mine doesn’t. Blocking access to Google is really simple, and instructions for doing it are everywhere. Google for it.

My ISP switched from internal to Gmail some time ago.

Again, so what? Use a different mail provider, or run your own. I have never used the email my ISP provides. I don’t even remember the login credentials.

I’m NOT avoiding Google

And that’s your choice. But that does make you a hypocrite.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "psychological impact"? -- Mike, they've built concentration camps!

Javascript only loads if you allow it to load. As a practical matter a simple adjustment to your browsers settings can disable javascript by default. Extensions like noscript, ghostery, and disconnect can do so more intelligently and with a larger feature set. Exactly how far did your ‘best efforts’ go if they didn’t even make it to the most basic steps like these?

out_of_the_blue says:

Notice the only casualties of the "leak" are good guys?

As I’ve written often enough that likely you’ve noticed: the Snowden “leak” is NOT going to harm the NSA. — But look at actual effects so far: Lavabit, whatever other secure email, and now Groklaw. And on the plus side… a couple of Congress-critters have made what even Mike called “noises”.

So even if NSA didn’t create it as limited hangout psyop, it’s still getting used for their purposes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Notice the only casualties of the "leak" are good guys?

So, ignorance that your private life wasn’t private at all in the face of a totalitarian government in a benevolent sheep skin is better?

And don’t bother starting your god damn google rant in response to this.

Internet users KNOW companies get money based off of what information they can sniff out of us to sell to other corporations. The government can get this information regardless of what corps are doing if they want it.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Notice the only casualties of the "leak" are good guys?

“My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it’s possible. I’m just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can’t stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible. I find myself unable to write. I’ve always been a private person. That’s why I never wanted to be a celebrity and why I fought hard to maintain both my privacy and yours.”

I agree with that EXACTLY, but you don’t appear to. And she’s specifically mentioned email being spied on.

Yes, you KNOW Google spies on your email, and you try to forbid mention of it! — In a piece about the chilling effects of surveillance. You’re exactly the corporatist type that’s creating this nightmare surveillance state.

Richard (profile) says:

Beauty and Safety

Ladar Levison’s (LL) actions strike me as highly laudable patriotism. PJ’s not so much. I can certainly relate to her trepidation and don’t begrudge PJ the choice to avoid spying and to discourage others from having their privacy violated by communicating with her/Groklaw. I can sympathize with PJ’s choice to withdraw from conflict and cower in hiding, but I admire LL’s heroic iconoclasm.

There has never been “beauty and safety in the rule of law.” The law invests the power of the rod and sword, the authority to coerce and destroy. Keeping the abuse of that power in check requires public resistance.

John William Nelson (profile) says:

Not the same as LavaBit?Groklaw could continue

I love Groklaw. It in part encouraged me to go to law school and become a lawyer.

I also respect PJ. She has worked hard on Groklaw. Her legal analysis has been great. Her work in putting up primary documents in important cases has been valuable (maybe even invaluable).

But I disagree with her reaction, to a point. I can understand and respect her desire to not continue Groklaw. In fact, I remember not long after the SCO v. IBM/Novell cases wound down she intended to shut down Groklaw once before.

Working on Groklaw must be a full-time or near-full-time job. It could be time for her to move on, and I respect that.

I also understand her feeling on the NSA surveillance. I can understand her unwillingness to continue communicating in a manner where that communication may be read by third parties. I also remember how private she is, and I respect that.

But Groklaw is not LavaBit. LavaBit was a company that held the emails of its clients in trust. That trust was sought to be broken by the government. In contrast, Groklaw is not an email company, it is a news and analysis blog.

Groklaw’s contributors, sources, and PJ may be reluctant to continue Groklaw because of the NSA surveillance, but this is substantially different than the actions of a company who hosts secure email for clients shutting down.

After all, the end product of Groklaw is public information; the end product of LavaBit was encrypted privacy.

Finally, while I understand the desire for protecting privacy, I cannot understand shutting down a forum which speaks truth to power. While I am furious over the NSA surveillance, shutting down forums which speak truth to the illegality of the program and government intrusion does not help.

I just listened to a program on the BBC World Service about the Prague Spring. It made me think of the bravery activists and protesters in the Soviet countries during the Cold War. There they also had reduced privacy, but those that spoke out risked much more than we do?prison or even death.

Do I like the NSA surveillance? No. But I do not think shutting down forums and going silent or underground is the answer.

Still, it is PJ’s site, and she is the heart and soul of Groklaw, even with the incredible contributions of others. It will be missed, and godspeed to PJ and good luck to her in her future endeavors.

And, as always, her post on why she is shutting it down is powerful, well-reasoned, and well-written?even if I ultimately disagree with some aspects of it.

Jober (profile) says:

Other kinds of privacy

I mostly work from my house but today I’m at the office. Maybe that’s why I’m wondering about corporate privacy and what the impact on it might be. My company conducts a lot of internal business via email and Skype. We talk strategy. We make plans.

Does the NSA now have all of those records of our thoughts and our plans?


Are they keeping all of that secret from my company’s competitors?

I hope so.

Will that always be the case?

Well, a few years ago I would’ve said the NSA wouldn’t have all of that data. Now, I know that’s wrong. What else will change in a couple of years? What else has ALREADY changed?

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting times (in the Chinese proverb sense)

From the article:

“I’m really sorry that it’s so. I loved doing Groklaw, and I believe we really made a significant contribution. But even that turns out to be less than we thought, or less than I hoped for, anyway. My hope was always to show you that there is beauty and safety in the rule of law, that civilization actually depends on it. How quaint.”

Civilization does depend on the rule of law. What recent events prove is that we are not living in civilized times. And it will get worse before it gets any better.

vorpal says:

A sad example

I have a sad example of how my email experience has been changed by the NSA.

I am a freelance copy editor. Someone sent me a nascent thriller for me to pick apart. Frankly, it was terrible, so I wrote the author a long letter to correct the techical problems and fix the plot holes. After I read the letter over, I realized that if I sent it, I would probably have federal agents on my doorstep within 24 hours. I leave the plot to your imagination, but it involved doing bad things to government higher-ups using nasty hardware.

I carefully wrote the letter out by hand, tucked it inside a book, and mailed it to the author. I also shredded the file on my hard drive. If I had had any sense, I would never have actually typed the letter in Microsoft Word in the first place.

This made me sad.

anonymous says:

...Yada! ...Yada!

…And yet we remain in so much denial when we maintain a competitive edge over others by intruding on their privacy.

Who here doesn’t find it extremely funny to catch someone pleasuring his or herself? Who doesn’t enjoy having the ear of employers for one’s job qualifications based on bought credentials instead of real world experience? Who would turn down knowledge of one’s competition in any affair as long as you were not personally responsible for the intrusion.

Humans respond dishonorably under social stress. It’s a sign of bad things coming. It’s not going to get better until something unacceptably bad scares people back from the abyss. It’s already too far gone to stop.

The best thing I can suggest is to think about what must be done to prevent the cycle from repeating. We never seem to be ready to do that.

Ben S (profile) says:

Re: ...Yada! ...Yada!

That’s a false equivalency you propose. Assuming one would find it funny to catch some one in the act (I personally wouldn’t), walking in at the wrong time is not the same as setting up cameras in the room so one can keep a record of each and every time it happens.

I’m not sure what you’re referring to with your “bought credentials”, you referring to a diploma? With any decent school, that’s not something you simply buy, but something you must work for, and earn. You not only need to know the information being presented, but must be able to demonstrate the ability to use it. Even so, I’m not sure what this has to do with the mass surveillance state.

Not turning down information about a competitor, once again, isn’t the actively looking for the information, or worse, following them, and copying down their every activity.

The things you describe aren’t even remotely similar to the spying going on, so I’m not sure why you thought to compare coming across information to actively seeking to remove privacy in order to obtain it.

Jerrymiah (profile) says:


Well that’s what happen when a nation becomes a military run state. With the NSA, president Obama has relinquished his powers to a few generals (Clapper, Hayden, Alexander, to name a few). No he can deny knowing anything about what the NSA is doing. He is only a puppet being given orders by the generals. As for Nancy Pelosy and Diane Feinstein, the just follow the parade although they kney everything since the very beginning.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Mixed emotions

PJ’s point is clear and valid.

However, this action seems like a surrender, when what we need is more people fighting. I am disappointed at this. Particularly since there are, in fact, ways to communicate securely enough for Groklaw’s purposes.

That email isn’t private has always been true. I remember when first using the internet — way back before it was open to the public — being taught that without encryption, email is like sending a postcard. Anybody handling it on the way to being delivered can read it. PJ’s discovery of this is a good thing, but her reaction to it is not.

Jose_X (profile) says:

So which imperfection is proposed?

>> The power of a surveillance state to spin out of control has wide-reaching consequences.

Sorry, I have not been reading here for some time in case this question and/or its reply has been stated, but what is the suggestion for having a state that is acceptable .. that won’t “spin out of control”?

Are we asking for an ideal that won’t be met or is there a reasonable proposition that most citizens can get behind?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: How about these for a start?

  • Accountability. From the lowest temp worker to a general or senator, if someone is found abusing their power they should be punished for it.

    Lie to congress? Get punished for it(and I’m talking the exact same punishment a regular person would get, not some pathetic slap on the wrist and ‘Don’t let me catch you doing it again’).

    Intentionally ‘forget’ to mention what you and your subordinates are doing, abuses and all? Lose your position(as well as face charges in court), you’re obviously unfit for it.

    Found to have violated the constitution on such a regular basis that even tracking the number of times becomes hard? Goodbye cushy office, hello tiny jail cell.

    Again, this would be from the lowest worker to the highest person involved, justice should not care how many stripes and medals a person wears, because the second it does, the second rank or position has any influence on whether or not a person is accountable for their actions like anyone else would be, the entire concept of ‘justice’ is tarnished forever, and all you can do is work back towards the ideal that you should have followed originally.

  • Transparency. Secret laws, and secret courts, with secret rulings, does not justice bring. The fact that only a very small handful of people know anything about what’s going on, and the people who are supposed to be providing oversight are intentionally left in the dark means there are effectively no checks of power going on because everything is classified so religiously.

    Does this mean everything must be public, spread far and wide? No, but it does mean that the legal justifications being used need to be public, and challengeable. It means that those senators/congresscritters with a neutral or even opposing view need to be able to get a full, honest debriefing on what’s being done so they can make sure that everything is legal and acceptable.

  • Actual oversight. Following up from the last point, if those that are supposed to provide oversight, to make sure that if there are abuses they are rare, handled quickly, and preventative measures are put in place to keep them from happening again are kept in the dark, and only know what those they are supposed to provide oversight over tell them, then they are nothing more than puppets, people put in place to give a thin veneer of legality and a fake sense of accountability.

    Want real oversight? You need a group that is at least as powerful as the ones they are presiding over, able to demand information, with the ability and will to punish and/or fire those that refuse. Anything less is nothing more than a sham.

    Now personally I don’t find any of the above unreasonable in any way, but necessary if the public is supposed to be able to trust any government agency of individual after this recent disaster of a government coverup.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: How about these for a start?

> Accountability

Many agree with what you mentioned, but you give no details as to how you hope to overcome human failures. Many of those things are law today.

Also, you likely are judging public figures without the benefits of a due process trial. You should recognize that many of the people you think are guilty perhaps may not be. And of course, money and savviness plays a role in who gets off and who does not.

So, are you offering a better set of laws than our Constitution and current set of laws and regulations? That was my question, to see some specifics that presumably meet some shared objectives while overcoming the realities of human nature and overcoming the rest of our currently flawed body of laws that the new law or laws would be a part of. And I was focused on the NSA spying worries.

> No, but it does mean that the legal justifications being used need to be public, and challengeable.

OK that is sort of a specific that is currently not law and can be codified. But are you saying you want to destroy some attorney-client privileges? Many people, especially in power, act based on their goals and guidance from an attorney. Are you instead saying that if forced to defend themselves, that they wouldn’t be able to use any other theory?

Of course, just asking for this would put lots of public pressure to behave in many cases, I think. If they didn’t offer a good theory, their actions would look bad.

And then there is the case of classified information (like legal theories) so that terrorists can’t anticipate our moves. 😉

> It means that those senators/congresscritters with a neutral or even opposing view need to be able to get a full, honest debriefing on what’s being done so they can make sure that everything is legal and acceptable.

Maybe you are saying that every Senator who wants to should be briefed on any topic. And, you probably want precise procedures and consequences if they are ignored or purposely kept in the dark.

> Want real oversight? You need a group that is at least as powerful as the ones they are presiding over

But who oversees the more powerful?

There is value to this idea (it’s the basis of checks and balances.. with the ultimate check performed by the People through a voting booth), but the devil is in the details. Is a strict hierarchy realistic and good or should there be more peers with complement powers?

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: How about these for a start?

> Lie to congress?

I want to give a summary version of an argument that Clapper did not lie to Congress.

The original comment is in the June 10th, “Clapper: I Gave ‘The Least Untruthful Answer’ To Wyden’s ‘Beating Your Wife’ Question On Data Surveillance”. This argument asks and answers 5 questions related to that article.

To Summarize the argument above that can get Clapper off the hook:

Q1: Did he lie to Congress?

No. He answered correctly the question he thought he was being asked, with “no, sir, not wittingly.” It’s not a lie unless it is untruthful and intentional.

Q2: Could Clapper possibly have thought that “any type of data at all on” Americans was not referring to meta-data but only to emails and the like?

Yes, according to the following reasonable interpretation of Wyden’s question. Random unprocessed data in bulk does not constitute a dossier on anyone. The data must be specific and linked to a person to be considered data collected on that person.

An analogous situation supports this view. Filming and storing everything in front of your store does not mean you are collecting data on “Mike” if Mike happens to pass by. You would be collecting data on Mike only when you process the bulk data and link it appropriately with a person named “Mike”.

Q3: Was the question about email?

If the meaning of a question need not be unique, then Clapper can have a good argument that it was about email.

Q4: Could Wyden be construed to have been asking a loaded question of the wife-beating variety?

Yes, because two different ways to interpret his question (while also interpreting it as referring to emails) exist yet each comes with the opposite answer. “No, sir, not wittingly” answers both of these interpretations. One interpretation is solely about the policy of the NSA. The other interpretation is about the achieved results of the collection process and would include errors.

Q5: Did Clapper admit to lying?

No. He never stated literally that he lied, and it would make no sense for him to admit to something that he likely believes is not true. He admitted to giving the best answer to a loaded question. He used the words “truthful” and “untruthful” but not “lie”, which is a word that means something different.

So this is why I ask about specific laws and policies. Many of the laws people want already exist even when we don’t think they are being applied properly. Sometimes it is difficult to win a case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Groklaw and emails:

I know for sure that PJ had no hesitation posting personal emails between parties that she was not one of !!!

Or reading other people emails !!!

I guess it was ok for her to do that, and post them for everyone to see, but not quite so ok for someone to do that against her !

PJ of ALL people should be well aware that what you write in emails can and does become public, why she did a great deal of that herself, against others !

If you make your living ‘exposing’ other peoples personal information and using that information for your attacks, expect the same in return one day.

Chazz (user link) says:

Needles in Haystacks

I understand PJs feelings but think she is over-reacting.

About 150 billion emails get sent every day. Assuming they are all collected by NSA and associated agencies I wonder how many emails actually get read each day by NSA analysts. If there are 10000 analysts world wide reading emails and each analyst can read 400 emails per day thats 4 million out of 150 billion that actually get read. The emails that don’t get read could be scanned using queries for keywords and phrases in multiple languages if the NSA etc have enough supercomputers/ processing power/ bandwidth.

So the chances of any of my emails actually getting read by NSA are probably lower than my odds of winning the lottery.

Todd Knarr (profile) says:

Re: Needles in Haystacks

About 150 billion emails get sent every day. Assuming they are all collected by NSA and associated agencies I wonder how many emails actually get read each day by NSA analysts.

That’s the problem: they don’t read them in real-time. They data-mine the entire stream looking for triggers. When they find something that triggers interest, they back up and read everything the people involved have written. So it’s not the odds of winning the lottery, it’s the odds of winning the lottery if you wait until after the draw (when you know what numbers came up) to go back and submit your ticket. The odds aren’t so long then, are they?

Jasper den Ouden (user link) says:

Not sure if stuff like tor, freenet, and bitmessage and others are really doomed to fail. Besides, the more people use those, the less the users stand out by using it.

Endpoint security is required. However, even without it, it is much clearer a wrong has been done when they needed to hack your computer to get at you..(and possibly much higher profile) Anyway I dont think you can use a computer the ‘regular’ way and be really secure, even if you’re security minded? To get a reasonable security, perhaps a secondary computer for that particular purpose is in order? (Special equipment might also avoid attacks on BIOS-ses?)

Also, there is an enormous difference between being hacked when someone tries to hack you particularly, and being hacked automatically. If you’re not a high-profile person, you wont stand out.

Finally, there is *no* retreat for this one. People walk around with mobile phones, and when you’re around them, it is a matter of compromising one of them, and using that to listen in to conversations. …And people call me silly when i say the microphones need hardware switches…

Anonymous Coward says:


I am a practicing attorney bound by strict rules of ethics by the state bar regarding client confidentiality.

Is email a confidential means of communication anymore?

Prudence demands that I revert to sending faxes and snail mail.

Woops–faxes and phone calls go through telephone lines.

Guess I have to send a letter and wait for a written response via snail mail to conduct confidential communications with other lawyers.

Of course, I can’t do this. But this whole mess has me technically breaking my ethical duties.

Cheers to idiocy!

Miko says:

The cost-benefit analysis here is explainable if we look at who benefits and who pays the costs. The NSA spying gives the government a massive ability to control the public, which is a huge benefit to the government. The costs this post mentions fall almost exclusively on the people and not on the government. That makes it pretty obvious why the government can claim that the benefits are worth the costs. Preventing terrorism is a convenient excuse for the government, but as this post mentions: that assumed goal leads to a cost-benefit calculation that just doesn’t make sense.

GH Crosby (profile) says:

We can't just curl up and die

I respect Pamela’s decision to shut down, but we can’t all just curl up & die. We shouldn’t stop using the Internet. But we Still, we can’t let them steal what’s left of our privacy. Our only recourse is for everyone to make themselves as small a target as possible.

Start encrypting phone calls, text messages, browsing. Stop storing files on Dropbox, in Gmail, in iCloud, etc., and stash everything in a Cloudlocker ( which stays in your house where they still need a warrant to look inside. What a shame it’s come to this, but we have to protect ourselves from the people who are supposed to protect us.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Chilling effect is chilling.

You know, toads really do leap away when the water gets too warm, no matter how slowly you heat it.

I’ve heard of talk to flee to Canada but that’s not a personal option.

It’s time to start invoking privacy services and end-to-end encryption. It’s better to have these before you need them, rather than needing them before you have them. And I don’t think they take that much time or effort to implement.

The more of us who use encryption, the more the spies* will have to triage their cryptanalysis services.

It may be time to start watermarking family photos with images of the Federalist Papers, or Human Rights Carters, or, fuck, Goatse.

It’s time to bury the intelligence community in banal data to obfuscate data of interest.

It may be time for bloggers to start blogging anonymously as a general measure of protection. The EFF has a whole department to get you started.

* Note that I say generically spies and not specifically the NSA, because the spying isn’t going to stop even if we shut down the NSA. Rather, the NSA is taking advantage of an exploit that we’ve merely left available. In order to stop the spying, (whether by interests national, commercial or criminal) we’re going to need to make it impossible, or at least uneconomical.

briyst8k0l3rqz (profile) says:

Government lovers: stop your whining!

If you vote, you can’t complain. Anybody who believes in the necessity and/or the positive efficacy of government deserves every rotten thing that government produces. The list of state and government crimes against humanity is endless, but people simply whine and moan. They never consider the idea that the state as a concept is illegitimate at its core. Only when enough people turn their backs on to the state, will we be free.

Corwin (profile) says:

"Rule of law"

Really? She believed in that? Who does, no-one. Laws don’t do shit. Either they’re common sense (don’t steal), or don’t work. (Don’t carry an ice cream cone in your pocket in Kansas Airport, don’t copy ideas, all variants of “don’t offend”, don’t grab American communications, don’t put things in you that make you feel good).

Get over it.

Dwight Neller (profile) says:

The innocence of watchers.

“What amazes me in all of these discussions concerning the defenders of such surveillance is that they never even seem able to comprehend the psychological impact of what all of this does. The way people change their behavior when they’re being watched constantly, and what that can do to a person.”

The primary parties responsible for the creation of these illegal programs know precisely the impact on the psyche of the people being watched. “Strategy “in fact, is a big part of their business. There are no innocent watchers. People who spy for a living may act the part of the dutiful civil servant, but deep in their dark human hearts, they enjoy their positions and remain for that reason alone. The money they get paid is not all that great and jobs in the intelligence field are not hard to come by when you have clearances. You give up all of your privacy in order to get some of those “credentials”, and if you’re already in the military, you have no real right to privacy.

As for the hideous politicians who have made this all possible, they are narcissistic scum who will stop at nothing to take every little measly piece they can get before they die or lose office for their ills. The House and Senate intelligence committee chairs are at the top of that list.

wh00 (profile) says:

NSA - obama

for those of you blaming obama for this mess, where have you been the last dozen years? a quick google shows a long USA Today article from 2006 (bush era)that reports:

“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

there was only one holdout among major telecoms, Qwest, and they were punished by the withholding of government contracts. AT&T, Verizon, Bellsouth – all caved. it’s common knowledge among those who care that hardware providers were also required to put in backdoors.

“Backdoors are implemented in routers and switches so law enforcement officials can track the Internet communications and activity of an individual or individuals under surveillance. They are required by law to be incorporated in devices manufactured by networking companies and sold to ISPs.” [networkworld]

if you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.

Dwight Neller (profile) says:

Re: NSA - obama

You have posted some good points.

Although Obama is by no means solely responsible for the original assembly of these NSA programs or the laws that have enabled them, he has chosen not to bring the last administration to justice or fulfill his campaign promises of fixing or removing the PATRIOT and FISA Acts eg.

“Illinois Now Questionnaire For Senator Barack Obama September 10, 2003:
Q: “Would you vote to repeal the U.S. Patriot Act?”
A: “Yes, I would vote to repeal the U.S. Patriot Act, although I would consider replacing that shoddy and dangerous law with a new, carefully crafted proposal that addressed in a much more limited fashion the legitimate needs of law enforcement in combating terrorism (for example, permitting a warrant for the interception of cell phone calls, and not just land-based phones, to accommodate changes in technology).”

Blaming Obama for all the things we have let go wrong in the US is ridiculous. Continuing to apologize for him is also not productive in any way.

wh00 (profile) says:

Re: Re: NSA - obama

keep in mind that an incoming president can’t unilaterally move to reverse what previous administrations have done. once it’s the law of the land, it’s difficult to change.

additionally, there’s clear evidence that people involved in the spying programs are willing to lie to us (james clapper and his ‘least untruthful answer’), and probably to the president as well. remember how the CIA lied to colin powell and then trotted him off to the U.N. with the yellowcake fiction?

Dwight Neller (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: NSA - obama

I absolutely remember the yellow cake debacle and the mysterious Anthrax scare that allowed Congress to pass the PATRIOT Act while hiding in their home states without even bothering to read it first.

Unfortunately, rather than take a stand against these recent renewals, they were expanded and signed into law again (by his hand). One of the reasons I voted for Obama the first time was to see these wrongs addressed in regard to the PATRIOT and FISA Acts. What I’ve seen instead is a full reversal of his opinion and now complete support for what is currently being done. I understand the challenges that are involved for a new President. Obama is not a new president now. It took GW Bush less than 2 years to unravel 300 plus years of US tradition regarding Habeas Corpus, due process, illegal search and seizure, executive power, reasonable rights to privacy, free speech and peaceful assembly et al. Now rather than take a definitive stand to reverse this damage, this President is increasing the divide between the US Government and the People who supposedly own it. He had a real chance to (veto) reign in both of these laws and absolutely chose not to. If he considers the FISA / FISC court and their puppet congressional intelligence committee counterparts a real effort for transparency, he is truly living in his own fantasy land (ignorance). The spirit and letter of the PATRIOT Act is being bent further than ever right now as I type this comment.

So what do we do now? Are we going to wait and see if he wakes up and takes a stand? I doubt that will do any good at all.

“WASHINGTON ? Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.

“It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.” Ref:

wh00 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 NSA - obama

“WASHINGTON ? Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
ok, so it sounds like he waited ’til the last minute because he didn’t want to, but his military advisors told him it was necessary. I’ll give him benefit of the doubt.

on the ‘blame obama’ tangent: I just heard that more louisianna republicans blame obama for the hurricane katrina debacle than blame bush….and 44% aren’t sure who was more responsible between the two. I feel quite certain that most of them are living on another planet and are somehow manifesting themselves through a crack in the space-time continuum. the phrase ‘sound and fury’ comes to mind….

Dwight Neller (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 NSA - obama

Obama: ?We should be skeptical about the potential encroachments on privacy. None of the revelations show that we have abused these powers, but they?re pretty significant powers,? Obama said.”

“What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails ? and have not,” Obama said

NYT: “A federal judge sharply rebuked the National Security Agency in 2011 for gathering and storing tens of thousands of Americans? e-mails each year as it hunted for terrorists and other legitimate foreign targets, according to the top secret court ruling, which was made public on Wednesday.”

Ignorance? He should probably just stop talking about National Security all together.

I do still think he is only partially at fault. He is in charge and so therefore the buck stops with him for now. When the next person takes office, they will carry the same burden.

Obama: “And what I continue to believe is that ultimately the buck stops with me. I’m going to be accountable. I think people understand that a lot of these problems were decades in the making.”

He is willing to take responsibility for all of these wrongs, and I after nearly 5 years of disappointment am willing to give it all to him.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 NSA - obama

In another thread, a quick calculation (without much benefit of the doubt) yielded 1 error query in every 10,000 by NSA query analysts. This includes typos.

What is your error rate at work? And does the buck stop with you?

BTW, what would you do today if you were President? Hope you are willing to take responsibility for terrorist attacks that happen afterward. And I’m sure the intelligence community would just love you. It’s not an easy job or easy set of decisions. Weighted against what at this point is mostly the fear of big brother watching are lives. You have to tell these people’s family that you could have called 1 in 10000 error rate OK and kept the program but you chose to defy Congress and try to cripple it (or beg Congress to kill it) because you didn’t want a single email from a random stranger to be accidentally read my a stranger trying to do a job.

Of course, while it is easy to say, I wonder if anyone who says these programs are useless in stopping terrorism and haven’t saved a single life actually believe that or would close them down if they were in a high target position (like a government Congressman or the President)?

Anyway, let me know if you would try to close down these 2 programs (meta data and prism) after you have thought about it hopefully for at least 20 minutes or so to consider the consequences all around you. .. And then we can sit here and blame Obama for 5 years of failures.

[According to Keith Alexander 27:20 Obama visited the NSA in 2009 asking them what they were doing and what more could they do to ensure compliance. Congress intelligence committees have found no willful violation of the law or intent of the law. Yes, mistakes happen (see the error rate above). .. But go ahead as President and sabotage the program because you are skeptical of big government.]

Dwight Neller (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 NSA - obama

“In another thread, a quick calculation (without much benefit of the doubt) yielded 1 error query in every 10,000 by NSA query analysts. This includes typos.”

Each one of those minuscule errors equates to violations of many, possibly thousands (or more) of people’s civil rights.
Those “errors” are crimes against the People.

“What is your error rate at work? And does the buck stop with you?”

I never asked for perfection from Barack Obama or Congressional members, just for them to tell the truth and to actually keep their own word and their oaths of office. Which has not in any way happened in regard to National Security and civil rights for 5 years.

“BTW, what would you do today if you were President? Hope you are willing to take responsibility for terrorist attacks that happen afterward.”

You mean terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon Bombing? The NSA did not stop that attack, nor did anyone in this government even bother to act on the intelligence passed along to them (for free!) by Russian authorities.

If I were President, I would not give my word to act on an issue and reverse my position without even discussing it publicly with some meaningful debate. Obama was in France when he signed the latest, expanded and far more draconian version of the PATRIOT Act with the autopen.

“Weighted against what at this point is mostly the fear of big brother watching are lives.”

You obviously don’t value your former civil rights at all. Perhaps you feel more comfortable having someone look over your shoulder and read your private communications with impunity. That’s fine. There are many ways to give up your civil rights for a false security state and a tiny paycheck. One way would be to join the US military, or go to any US jail (indefinitely, without charges filed, with no due process, habeas corpus or phone call to your mom, which is all now legal thanks to Barack Obama and his pen). If you’re lucky and you fit the “profile”, you may get to see some really exotic places, like Guantanamo (yep still open after 5 years). I hear water boarding is awesome fun!

“Anyway, let me know if you would try to close down these 2 programs (meta data and prism) after you have thought about it hopefully for at least 20 minutes or so to consider the consequences all around you. .. And then we can sit here and blame Obama for 5 years of failures.”

I’ve been thinking and acting in regard to these illegal, unconstitutional programs for over a decade. If I were President, I would shut them all the way down today, permanently. The NSA has been illegally collecting data on US Citizens for much longer than just since 9/11. They had some of the same capabilities in place prior to 9/11. Where was the NSA for 9/11, or the Anthrax scare that enabled an absentee US Congress to pass the PATRIOT Act without reading it, or the USS Cole, or the WTC Bombing in 1993, countless US Embassy attacks etc etc? All were great opportunities for them to show their might. Didn’t happen.

“Congress intelligence committees have found no willful violation of the law or intent of the law.”

Congressional Intelligence Committees make massive amounts of personal money being “yes men” (or women in the case of Dianne Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi et al.) for the NSA. They essentially offer NSA / Defense Contractor puppet oversight to a puppet, rubber stamp, kangaroo court that has granted 99% plus of requests for queries against the data accumulated by these illegal programs.

Without the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights intact, there is no “United States” to keep safe. There is no place in a real democracy for a secret police state in any form.

“But go ahead as President and sabotage the program because you are skeptical of big government.”

I am not skeptical of “big government”. It is obvious to many of us, that this gigantic, ridiculous, disjointed, divided, propagandized government doesn’t work in any way whatsoever. There is no accountability, integrity, respect, transparency or “hope” to be seen or heard.

This is my last post on this dead end thread, have a great life and keep on dreaming the impossible dream.

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