How The NSA's Overreach Will Make The NSA's Job Much More Difficult

from the don't-these-guys-think-ahead? dept

The ACLU has a good discussion of how the NSA’s massive grab of so much data is going to come back and bite the NSA, not just because its efforts are likely to be at least somewhat restricted by Congress, but because the overreach is so egregious and so extreme, that the “happy accident” that makes much of it work — the fact that so much internet traffic routes through the US — may go away as a result. Basically, all of the concerns raised about the level of surveillance means that many other countries are now much more interested in making sure that their internet traffic doesn’t need to go through the US.

If the U.S. government had confined its spying to the kind of targeted espionage and anti-terrorism activities that the public probably imagined the NSA was focused on, I think it would have been on safe ground internationally. The world knew about the NSA and its global eavesdropping activities, and is not shocked by espionage as traditionally practiced by many nations.

[….] The NSA today justifies its activities principally as a means of keeping the nation safe from terrorism. Ironically, had the United States eschewed dragnet spying and stuck with targeted foreign intelligence-gathering, it would not now be threatened by “data flight” and might remain in a better position to investigate genuine threats through the kinds of targeted eavesdropping efforts that the world does find acceptable.

This is almost certainly true. If the NSA had remained focused on things like stopping terrorism, people wouldn’t be so concerned. But the massive “collect it all” scope that it decided to embrace has made the whole thing a debacle for the NSA, which easily could have been avoided if it had continued to stick to its actual mandate.

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Comments on “How The NSA's Overreach Will Make The NSA's Job Much More Difficult”

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Tigger (profile) says:

NSA Access in General

I was watching an episode of NCIS this weekend – Agent Gibbs was leading his team in the pursuit of a very nasty killer and it was all like:

“Take a look at what numbers he’s been calling”
“I’m seeing 8 calls in a short timeframe to the same number”
“Do we know who’s number that is?”
“It appears to be a burner phone, tracking its location to its last use”
“OK team move out”

It dawned on me that this is exactly the kind of information being used that everyone is up in arms about – but no-ones batting an eye at this, presumably because a) its a fictional program but I think probably morelike b) Gibbs is the hero and we want him to be able to catch the bad guys because that’s what good guys do.

This got me thinking that maybe what the NSA really needs is some kind of image overhaul – show them to be the good guys again and then people won’t object to them having access to resources such as metadata in order to do their job just like agent Gibbs.

Pragmatic says:

Re: NSA Access in General

Tigger, they don’t need an IMAGE overhaul, they need a complete overhaul. They need to be good, not just look good. I’ve got three words for you, buddy: “Probable Cause” and “Warrant.”

Those two Constitutionally-required items would provide the Agent Gibbses of this world with the kind of targeted information they need to get their jobs done.

“Nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide” is a slogan, nothing more. We live in a world where suspicion alone is enough to bring a SWAT team around. It’s got to stop.

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