Why Does The NSA Focus So Much On 'TERROR!' When PRISM's Success Story Is About Cybersecurity?

from the odd dept

We’ve mocked the NSA for the way it always reverts to FUD about “terrorists” to show how “successful” programs like PRISM have been, but then also reverts to talking about cybersecurity as a focus to make the surveillance seem more like it’s about protecting people, rather than spying on them. However, as some of the latest revealed documents show, perhaps the NSA has its talking points all mixed up. There’s plenty to discuss concerning the revelations about the NSA spying on French phone calls, but some people have noticed that, while some of the presentation documents revealed with that story were revealed before, there are a few new ones as well, including this one:

The key thing here is the report that the NSA was able to use its FAA authority (apparently via both PRISM and “upstream collection” — which is tapping directly into the backbone via telcos) to figure out that someone, perhaps the Chinese, had gotten access to a defense contractor’s network and was either preparing to, or at least had the ability to get 150 gigs of important data out. The NSA alerted the FBI which alerted the contractor and they plugged the hole the same day. While that certainly seems like a good thing, it’s not entirely clear stopping such hacking is really worth giving up a ton of privacy, though it does show, again, why Keith Alexander keeps demanding access to pretty much everything. Of course, you’d think that the NSA would be a bit more forward in promoting this success story, rather than its bogus claims about stopping terrorist attacks, which have fallen apart under scrutiny.

The other interesting slide is this one:

It shows some of the differences between PRISM and the upstream collections, both of which the NSA believes are authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. PRISM involves being able to collect specific data from the 9 specific companies which have been named (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Skype, AOL, Paltalk, YouTube), while “upstream” is what the NSA gets from tapping the backbone via telcos. “DNR Selectors” are the phone call metadata collected under a different program (Section 215 of the Patriot Act) which they apparently can filter the upstream data collection against. “DNI” is internet data (email addresses and such). Once again, it looks like tapping the backbone provides a hell of a lot more data, but it lacks the ability to “access stored communications,” which they get via PRISM.

The other interesting tidbit to me, is the “direct relationship” claim. Note that with PRISM, it says “only through FBI,” which suggests a reason why the PRISM companies have insisted that they’ve never been involved in any NSA program. It looks like they may have only had to deal with FBI requests (and associated FISA court orders). It’s just that the data the FBI gets is then shared with the NSA.

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Comments on “Why Does The NSA Focus So Much On 'TERROR!' When PRISM's Success Story Is About Cybersecurity?”

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out_of_the_blue says:

Because if mentioned its real targets: We The People,

various other spying on foreign gov’ts, plus industrial espionage and info for stock market trading, it’d likely wake up everyone. And we all know “terrorism” is the universal justification for the police state. I’m just still kind of surprised they don’t have a “Goldstein”, though in some ways among the more rabidly fascists, Snowden is being used in that role.

out_of_the_blue says:

And @ "only through FBI,"

“suggests a reason why the PRISM companies have insisted that they’ve never been involved in any NSA program.” — Yeah, right. To me and anyone slightly suspicious of mega-corporations that suggests what I said from the start that (coyly euphemized, Mike doesn’t ever use names) “the PRISM companies” are flat out lying as to extent of involvement in gov’t spying: just a lawyerly hair-splitting dodge.

Google wants you to know you’re under our ever improving state-of-the-art personalized surveillance! We learn your interests, habits, and associations! All “free”, courtesy of other corporations!


Anonymous Coward says:

Obviously they tout the ‘terror’ needles because that’s an appeal to emotion and lets them collect lots of hay, the actual thing their after.

That’s why they talk up a $20 million dollar program among a $10 billion spend.

If you talk up the defense contractor protection, you’d immediately ask why the defense contractor didn’t have better monitoring of their own network. It’s a lot less work, a lot easier, and a lot less invasive for ‘secret-keepers’ to monitor their own networks.

gezzerx (profile) says:


The Government will continue its propaganda campaign using the following tactics as quoted by Joseph Goebbels during the 1930’s & 1940’s.

?If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important
for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the
greatest enemy of the State.? AND

?The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over?

Anonymous Coward says:

The elephant in the room is of course not the warrantless spying, the incompetence and the total disregard for what they are and who they are supposed to serve. I’m currently mostly offended by those awfully ugly slides. Seriously.

Look at them.

Look. At. Them.

I think it is pretty safe to say that they not only care not for human rights for foreigners (a given), or citizens; They torture their own as well.

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